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    TotW 165 - Nothing is True
    magic, blades, footsteps, clock, darling
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    Winner - Confederate Jeb
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    The theater is empty now, with not a sound piercing the silence save for a lone clock ticking away somewhere in the rafters. Not an hour before the building had been the stage of life and merriment, of joy and peace. A comedy was being performed, a brand new one at that, and as always the citizens of the city didn't fail to miss opening night. A talented rising star played the lead roll, his voice carried throughout the theater and his singing was filled with magic. An old favorite, Theodore, played the part of an old beggar with much wisdom and foresight in a land of mischief and error. He had hinted that this piece would be his last production and he would finally retire once the rounds were completed. But nobody believed him; acting was in his blood and soul. He would keel over on stage before he ever truly retired. A young damsel, naught but sixteen years old, was making her debut as the leading lady. Her casting had been followed with much scrutiny, for nobody so young had ever received such an important part. So many other regulars could have performed the part, but once she was chosen she became the darling of the whole city. The patrons had too much love for their theater to bicker and fight over who should play what or what play should be performed. "Oh, he'll get the part next time around, or be the leading man in the next piece no doubt!" "Honestly I feel that the directors should be following this production with a musical, but this tragedy they are planning sounds simply fabulous." The theater takes in all the joyous cheering and applause as if it feeds of it. If it truly was a living thing it would have no shortage of sustenance. Comedies always brought out the loudest crowds, eager to laugh at a good joke. The dramas and tragedies brought out the ones ready to clap in proud admiration at the work of a blade or poison. And yet everyone made sure they attended every play, regardless of their preferences. There were simply too many reasons to go to the theater to miss a musical, an opera, a comedy, a tragedy, a documentary, a history...

    As the clock continues to click away, a sound can barely be made out in the calm silence. Soft, faint footsteps walking along the rafters pace back and forth, as if observing the theater. Nobody is ever around to hear them, but the patrons hear its works every day. And that makes it happier above all other things.
    Entrant 2 - Rex Anglorvm
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    Nothing is true


    Five long hard years, could it really have been that long?

    Yes, five years today, somehow I had managed to keep a track of the days. I had used a 2012 paper diary and the internal clock in my head to keep track as the days, weeks, months and then years passed.

    It had been strange; all those weird graffiti sayings that had sprung up across the world virtually overnight.

    ‘Everything is true, nothing is permitted’ and vice versa of course.

    People had thought it was taken from a popular game of the time, but it wasn’t as simple as that.

    No this was the Mayan prophecy come real. People had laughed at the idea of the world ending, and they were right the world did not end; civilization had though, along with a great deal of humanity.

    On the 21st of December 2012 the world changed, the footsteps of progress that had advanced mankind for thousands of years abruptly halted, as nature extracted its revenge for the scars that humanity had imposed on the planet.

    Across the globe the people in power were too preoccupied with words such as ‘credit crunch, quantative easing and toxic debt’ too worry about some ancient prophecy that had no bite.

    Except it did bite.

    I woke up to find that the world had changed overnight; hurricanes, storms, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis all rocked the world and in the end only a handful of survivors had managed to cling on.

    I had survived, I had been working in the farthest highlands of Scotland and only its remoteness saved me. It took me weeks to walk home and find that my darling wife had not.

    Since that time I have wandered, these days I have a blade at my side; it was a long machete that I had used to chop down Japanese knotweed that had invaded my back garden in 2010.

    The blade has saved my life a dozen times now; that steel edge and my dog Magic who I found lost and alone as a pup and who now was a full size terrifying looking bull mastiff.

    But we travel with a purpose; I’m looking for something, a sign that civilisation may just have clung on somewhere and that not everyone has retreated into a world of barbarity and even cannibalism.


    I managed last year to cross the channel into mainland Europe; I walked the length of the Euro tunnel, which by some miracle was still watertight, hoping to find somebody who will have held a community together without becoming a man-eating despot.

    So far I have had no luck.
    Entrant 3 - Mega Tortas de Bodemloze
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    Nothing is True
    Love is a lie


    The tomboy says: True love is a lie. Hit it and quit it or use it till it's no longer shiny and new. Then... throw it away as soon as the next "looker" comes along. Ain't no one geniuine or even worth a lick. They're all just a bunch of self serving, self imersed, 's & Bastards. So, you know what, my little darling dear?
    I don't mind and they don't matter.


    Love is a lie and there's no such a thing as Soul mates.

    Oh no says I: There "is" true love, and it falls from the sky like the shadowed mists in autumn and spring rains on a sunny day. We both agree on the net result{failed relationships} but disagree on what they are made of. Love is easily had for brief, fleeting*, magical, moments then the clock starts ticking with the notion that things might just work out.
    Once you "flip their switch", their defensive walls disinegrate as they soon realize that they can't keep you out. Now from there... jealousy, apprehension, axniety, and fear all blend together to form the blade that stabs you through the heart and shredds your soul. To them it is better to "not " have something than to risk losing it. I've never understood that way of thinking, but that's pretty much how it always goes.
    Thats when they "Freak" and in the blink of an eye, fleeing footsteps give way to supersonic flight, that would leave the Olympian Jesse Owens eating nothing but dust.

    Nothing is true, love is a lie.

    Naat! Love's just like life. It happens when you are not looking for it.

    Personal, Post Scriptum: Danielle: Aimee's man probably does LuuuV her for real and for true. Well, at least his version of it. But... the real question is could he, will he let her run free? Cuz if not then it can never be. It takes more than just love to makes things work. Symbiosis, Semetry, Patience, and a dash of True grit, but that and the topic of Soul mates are conversations for another time. Preferably after 3:58am or at least when most of my stuff's done....

    Toodles....{Cut this fro, "if" you can}...

    *Two weeks is the norm, four weeks is stretching it

    Entrant 4 - Aonghus G. Friedhold
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    The Ordeal


    There's something to be said for privacy. Not solitude, to be sure, but the placing of a veil over a man's heart. The innermost workings of a person are tricky things, and perhaps it is too much to assume that any person can fully grasp the soul of another. In fact I don't believe they should. Looking back, it seems my downfall was believing I could understand that girl. I don't contend that I ever loved her, that magic spell gives perhaps too much an air of romance to the story itself. It was many things, that ordeal, but romantic it was not.


    At the time this ordeal had first begun to take root, I was staying at a small countryside inn, re-appropriated to entertain expatriates such as myself. This particular home possessed a small verandah, upon which I would sit and drink, balancing on the edge of thoughts. Perhaps there was a clock behind me, off to the left, on some wall or mantle, but I don't happen to recall anything but the sound. It could be that it was merely the footsteps of the innkeeper clouded by memory.


    That's not to say I never left - quite the opposite. My voracious appetite for experience led me to all corners of the inn and the country beyond, and after such a trip the border between home and country was quite inviting. Those were, perhaps, my darling days. That was privacy, wherein I could experience the people of the region one minute, and sit in satisfied solitude the next. Yet I felt within me a desire for companionship. The me of then was certain that life was to be shared. That was the idea, at least, and in the end it is ideas which prove the most tenacious and hard to deal with of all things. It was this idea that drove me to find her. She had always been there, though I cannot recall when we were first acquainted. Whether it was some twist of fate or my own actions that put us together, I do not claim to know.


    I stated earlier that I never loved her, but perhaps I can concede that I loved the idea. I was fully willing to sacrifice some small part of me for the idea, to suffer from her blade to keep it afloat. It was companionship which I desired, and she offered it to me, with only the minor pittance that I surrender myself to her command. Conflict was inherent in the idea, as she allowed no reciprocation of this drive into my core, but I rejected nothing. For that year I was a child in her arms.


    Yet there is an age where an infant first realizes who the reflection in a mirror is. Perhaps, I too, cast off infant-hood. Although I don't know when or where it happened, I do know that I ultimately dropped her. For there is indeed something to be said for privacy.
    Entrant 5 - Heiro de Bodemloze
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    “Yes, darling?” he smiled mockingly at me. A chill entered the room from the open window, his breath warm upon my face I pushed him up against the wall. “Remind me, why are you doing this again?”

    “Because no one else will,” I replied, my voice on fire. The blood pulsed in my head, beating, beating. The pounding in my head stopped for a moment, allowing me to think clearly for a brief moment. I heard the clock ticking, heard his heavy breath smelling of some fine wine and to my relief, no footsteps.


    “See these scars, young one?” he pointed to his neck, there was a white line, all but faint. “You are not the first one. You are not unlike any of the others who sought the glory.” He smiled satisfactory at me, as if he thought he’d won.


    “But that is where you are wrong, there are no men like me,” I replied.

    “All young men think that, until they one night lie face down in a tavern or in some godforsaken back alley, men are always swallowed by their dreams of magic and ideals.” The man didn’t even move as I moved my blade harder against his throat.


    “Nothing you say is true. To achieve, everything is permitted,” I said and slashed.
    Entrant 6 - ╬Ritterbruder╬
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    “Do you think he actually did it?” I asked, staring at the downside of the bunk above me, my head resting in the palms of my hand.

    Peter looked up from his book, a puff of smoke was pushed from between his lips, followed by a return question: “Who did?”

    “Tim” I replied, as I lifted my head from the bed. “Do you actually believe that he would try and lie his way out of here?”

    Peter put the book on the table, sensing there would not be much reading in the next few minutes, with the pages down so he would know where he had left off. A slight sigh followed while he looked at the clock, which indicated that it was nearly his time to go on watch.
    “You two were closer than him and me,” he took out his pipe and pointed the mouthpiece towards me “So I’d think you would know it better.”

    I shook my shoulders and sighed: “That’s what I thought, and I would never think of him as a coward, but then…” I paused and reflected briefly over what I knew about Tim “but then they wouldn’t accuse him of it, now would they? Would he truly be a coward?”

    Peter inhaled deeply from his pipe and let the smoke flow out of his nostrils as he straightened his back. “Aah, the magic of truth…” He spoke, like recalling some fascinating story from times long gone. “You see, lad, the truth is that part of a story which has the most and best arguments in favour of it: either he did shoot himself in the foot while trying to kill a rat.” He tried to put up a smile, but gave up the effort when he looked at my face “or he really did it to escape this hellhole, and who could blame him.”

    We heard muddy footsteps coming down the stairs of our dug-out. Peter took out his pocket watch and briefly glanced at it as he got up. Burns came in, dripping from the rain, and put his rifle in the corner while grumbling as usual after being on watch:
    “This sodding Belgian rain, you’d think it'd ever stop pooring down” but his voice calmed as he reached for the kettle with coffee-substitute on the small oven. “All right Peter, your time to go up, your turn to freeze your balls off.” He ended that phrase with a slight grin and took a sip from his mug.

    Peter patted him on the shoulder as he passed by “There’s not to reason why, there’s but to do and die.” He looked back at me and nodded, I nodded back and he started walking up the stairs.

    Burns smirked, “I hope you’ll be thinking of those romantic words when a Hun puts his bajonet blade in your gut.”

    A faint response came back, halfly obscured by the crashing rain: “I will darling, I will…”

    Entrant 7 - Ybbon
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    1st July 1916, near Albert, The Somme

    My Darling Louisa,

    Well the time is near now, we are not supposed to talk about his but by the time you receive this letter we will have gone over the top. We are watching the clock we have somehow managed to keep in the bunker and it seems to us that it goes ever slower as the final minutes approach. We have had many battalions and new men added to our sector and word down the line is that we will be pushing along the Roman road towards Bapaume.

    I know we have large numbers of men here, I do not know the dispositions but the word is we have 13 divisions and then French have nearly the same number, we do not know how many of Kaiser Willies boys face us but they have had a long time to dig in so I hope the artillery gives them a good pasting or we will be walking into some kind of Hell out there. The General Staff must know what they are about though or we would not be making this big push.

    I know we have made fun of the French but they have seen more of this than we have and they are all good lads really, we have been taking their advice as best as we can. Keeping your boots tied tight to stop water getting in and rotting your feet, keeping you bayonet blade sharp and your trenching tool too, a full canteen. Some of the lads from our street have been trying to learn some French, I had to laugh at the way they mangle the accent – Geordie and French make a funny combination.

    As we get closer to the off I have tried thinking of you, trying to hear the sound of your voice and the softness of your caress, but the artillery and tenseness all around makes it hard to grasp. I wish I had some kind of magic to hear your laugh once more, to be able to walk down the street with you once more. I pray to God that we can be together soon when I get leave but it is a long way to Newcastle from here in Albert. When I survey the mud and craters outside the trenches it seems to be a whole different planet away from you my love.

    Well I must finish now, forgive my haste, but I hear the footsteps of Captain Owen heading along and calling the men to the front, it looks like we are going over soon.

    All my love and affection to you and the bairns, kiss them and tell them I love them will be home soon, I love you with all my heart,

    Your ever loving husband,

    Francis O’Keoghan
    1st Tyneside Irish, 24th Bn, Northumberland Fusiliers.


    TotW 166 - The Sword and Quill
    drawn, parchment, liberties, thesis, boot

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    Winner - Mors Vigilia
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    The Sword and Quill

    The swords were drawn and the two combatants eyed each other warily. The dawning sun had done its best to pierce through the misty fog that lay low upon this duellist’s field, though thin wisps still remained, occasionally dispersed by tentative swipes of a hand or sword. Nevertheless, the pale orange rays that penetrated were enough to light this grim scene, grim as so many other things that came about in the name of honour.

    Dravik now claimed that he had been wrongly accused of villainy in Nathaniel’s thesis. To think that two friends would come to such vicious blows over mere words. This is the power that words could wield. The two had both been confidants of the late Viceroy and each one was hotly tipped to replace him. Some now thought that the winner of today’s duel would also win the Viceroy position, though the simple truth was that the on-going argument over Nathaniel’s thesis had discredited both of them in the eyes of the electoral consulate.

    Whether he intended it or not, a parchment that contained part of the controversial thesis had gone missing from Nathaniel’s quarters. Soon it had been found and passed around by many different hands before returning to its writer. As such words would, they multiplied, passing from hands, mouths, and yet more papers as people gossiped amongst themselves with the possible future Viceroy a tempestuous yet popular topic of conversation. Soon all knew of these certain accusations against Dravik and even his own boot boy dared to voice knowledge of it as he went about his work in his master’s very presence. It was this that had finally riled Dravik into violence, though a dark and imposing man, he was also usually very calm and temperate, therefore adding credence to his claim that Nathaniel’s words were lies. However, Dravik had been riled and here he stood opposite Nathaniel as his second checked his weapons and clothing. Would the consulate vote for a man who could be angered enough to want to kill a former friend? Could that man be trusted with the liberties of his people? Furthermore, Nathaniel’s writings – true or not – were highly accusative but somewhat petty in places, perhaps too petty for a man who would be expected to deal with great and pressing matters of state.

    Judging that the weapons were fair, the officer of the duels stepped back and ordered the seconds to stand behind their principles. By custom, he asked the combatants whether they would consider either ending the duel now before it had begun or ending it after first blood so that none need die today. Though it was custom, the words were not needed this morning, all knew that the accusations and arguments of the past few days had led to this point. Two men faced each other down now on this accursed field, only one would leave with his life.
    Entrant 2 - Confederate Jeb
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    Too many liberties were taken in the construction of city. The structural integrity weakened with each passing decade, until at last the buildings crumbled and the castle came down, over the cliff into the great abyss, leaving only the library intact. And thus it sat there for many years, alone and solemn. The survivors of the catastrophic took to living in the library, for fear of causing more destruction should they venture to rebuild their city. And thus the guardians of the library originated, from the offspring of the survivors. And they were wise guardians, for they had much time to study every parchment and thesis they found. This, of course, did not satisfy each generation of new guardians, but their wanderlust was put to rest through much argument and punishment. That is, until Hector of the fifth generation. A quiet child, he spent more time learning than any of the other boisterous children that made up his generation. One day, however, he approached the elder guardians and asked for permission to leave the library and the plateau, in order to seek out new knowledge. The elders balked at such an idea, but his arguments were sound and filled with purpose. What had happened to the world during their solitude? What was life like on the ground below, where men looked up at clouds instead of down upon them? If obtaining knowledge was the purpose of the guardians, why did they stay content with the knowledge held solely in their library? At last the elders relented, and allowed Hector to go on his quest.

    On the day his journey began, Hector, now a young man, got out of bed and slowly placed his left boot on, then his right. He had slept in his clothes, so eager was he to leave before the sun had risen too high in the sky. His backpack had been filled the night before with paper, food, and rope. An extraordinary amount of rope, for the elders knew not how long the descent would be to the surface. But the length of his travel mattered not; Hector was drawn to the world of below, and the information it held. If the climb took years then he would make it as readily as if it would take but a day. His gear prepared, he walked out of his room and towards the grand entrance of the library. His age would normally prevent him from being allowed to even exit the library to walk the small gardens and farms that surrounded the great complex, but he was special. As the guards opened the doors before him, and the light of the world shown into his eyes, Hector smiled. He was about to embark on a journey of grand adventure, and he knew it. This is his story.
    Entrant 3 - Rex Anglovm
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    The Sword and Quill

    I sat in the Pub thinking about how the previous evening had gone so very wrong. I don’t normally dwell on mistakes, as there’s little point, after all you can’t rectify most of the bad choices you make.

    But this time I had made such a bad mistake that I felt like a real low-life. I wanted to fix things. The only problem was that I knew that I couldn’t.

    It had started innocently enough.

    Just a little flirting with a mate’s girlfriend; nothing serious just friends larking around, but then we had ended up drawn to each other. I had stepped over the line with a friend’s girl; I had taken liberties as we say in London.

    We had got drunk and we had ended up sleeping together, my mate had been out of town, busy researching for a thesis he was writing for his post graduate qualification.

    I had popped over to their house to keep her company; in the end after a bottle of red wine and a pizza, things had got out of hand; if I’m wimp I could always blame her, after all she had made the first move. But there is no excuse, I’m sure written down somewhere on an ancient piece of parchment there will be a rule stated that ‘thou should not mess with a mate’s girl’, but I had.

    I could not undo what I had done, but I could do something else; I could admit it to my mate and take the consequences. However unpleasant they may be.

    Maybe, just maybe she wouldn’t tell him; I mean what would she have to gain? Sure she might ease her conscience but at what cost; the cost of her relationship. I’m sure I was just a bit of fun to her, something not to be repeated.

    And there was always the chance that my mate was seeing someone else anyway; he was always sneaking off ‘researching’ most of the research he was carrying out involved other women. He had even mentioned a girl from Wolverhampton that he was seeing on the side, and that he may give his regular girl the boot anyhow.

    Which raised another possibility, supposing he gave her the boot and then she told him what happened between us out of spite?!


    Either way I was royally screwed.

    I picked up the bar menu and studied it; maybe if I ate something I would feel better, I’d always liked the food here at ‘The Sword and Quill’, a great little boozer tucked away in the East End that had not been touched with the gentrification of the nearby streets of Shoreditch, well not yet anyway.

    I put the menu back down, who was I kidding, I had really blown it.

    I felt my mobile vibrate in my pocket; I took it out and looked at the screen, it was my mate…Oh hell.
    Entrant 4 - Ybbon
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    The Sword and Quill

    “Are you sure this is beer? It tastes like sour cats pee!” I spat the foul brew onto the straw covered floor and glared at Venus, “For Gods sake woman what are we doing here?” She pointedly looked around the inn and it dawned on me as I followed her gaze that the rest of the patrons were staring our way with less than friendly looks – and I thought they had looked mean when we first walked in but that must have been their welcoming look. She kicked me hard under the table and hissed at me “now drink the rest and look grateful we are here to affect a revolution, not get ourselves thrown out because you are a sensitive little flower.” I rubbed my shin, she had her steel toe-cap boots on again and they hurt. “Right, be quiet and watch for Samuel Adams, he needs to get busy tonight”.

    I muttered to myself and carried on rubbing my shin, “Gentlemen, my friend meant no insult, he just has delicate tastes, but as a gesture of good will, my friend will buy you all another drink?” That cheered them up especially when it was my purse she took liberties with to pay for them. “So what do we have to do with this Sam Adams chap again?” I was a little fuzzy on the details, the beer might be foul and have some things floating in that I really would rather not think too closely about but it had a definite kick to it. “We take this thesis of his and light a fire with it” well maybe I understood it a little better but absurd reduction did so annoy her it was always worth the pain.

    Venus turned her best withering look on me, and maybe it was the beer giving me courage but I smiled back at her this time. Flustered, she looked at me and shook her head, “no, his thesis is just a dry and dusty idea drawn up on a parchment and we need it to be 'sexed up' so it lights a fire in these colonials, as without that, there will be no American Revolution. He has a call for the 'Colonial Friends of His Britannic Majesty' which is not going to inspire anyone. He needs to get his Sons of Liberty formed here in the Sword and Quill tonight.”

    To be honest I was still struggling why we needed that to happen, but the authentic colonial clothes we had on, had some authentic colonial lice in, one of which decided to give me a good bite at that point distracting me from the question forming on my lips, that and a dusty underwhelming man had walked in and I knew with a sinking heart that this was our boy.
    Entrant 5 - ☩Lord Inquisitor Derpy Hooves☩
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    “Falan, I’ve always told you the quill was mightier than the sword,” Bronden said pointing down at a large field of grass which was occupied by two armies, the Regian army and the Westmarkan rebel army. The previous day, the two men had climbed a small mountain to get a good look of the area where a battle would without a doubt occur. Luckily for them, scouts from either side had not spotted them, but if such a thing were to happen, they were prepared. Falan was Bronden’s bodyguard for this journey, and had been his friend since childhood. He was on loan from the First Foreign Legion, and Bronden was in need of a bodyguard if he was going to travel through and record the events of the Westmark’s war for independence.
    “You see Falan, with just parchment and quill; I have convinced all of Westmark to throw off the iron grip of Regian rule. I bet Dynakadoi Belden would like to have a word with me. He’s about to lose his governorship over Westmark.” Bronden said with laugh.
    Both men gazed at the field, watching one line charge across the field. “Those rebels better…” before Bronden could finish, musket fire rang out from the other army. A great cloud of smoke lined the front of the standing army. Even at the distance Bronden and Falan were at, they could see that the charging force was slowing. “You clearly don’t know how muskets work. A musket does not have perfect accuracy along with unlimited range.” Falan chided, still staring at the battle.
    Bronden turned and looked at Falan, “I expected no less from a military man, but you know Falan, I feel that I should know more. My father fought in the war to retake Janak City. You probably will find this funny, but for all of the theses I have drawn proclaiming the countless liberties every man and group of peoples should expect, none have brought me closer to understanding that war. Makes me feel as if I am misleading my readers,” he said sounding depressed.
    Falan looked at Bronden, then back at the battlefield below, “You don’t want to know what happened in that war. The horrific acts fellow Janakans committed against innocent civilians in Janak City is the very definition of barbaric.”
    “You’re probably right. Still, I do think it would be best for me to find out for myself,” Bronden said. He looked back down at the battlefield where hundreds of men were fighting, and dying. The companions stared at the battlefield, the soldiers fighting were little more than ants from their current position. Bronden could not determine who was winning; the both sides were clumped together, like a blob.
    “Seems like ‘ole Theodoric has the rebels under his boot,” Falan finally said. “This fight’s over, we should leave.” Heeding his companion’s advice, Bronden turned around and began the trek downhill with Falan following close behind.
    Entrant 6 - ╬Ritterbruder╬
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    The sword and quill,
    “What do you think you are doing? Who do you even think you are?
    Do you think a mere tramp like you can intimidate me? Come in here and threaten me, in my own house above all places?
    Do you even know who I am? WHAT I am?
    You are not even worthy of licking the sole of my boot… You, who are destitute of all honour and decency! You, who come in here using the cowardly blanket of darkness in your feeblish attempt to deprive me of life.
    Go ahead, place your dagger upon my throat and strike, but it will be in vain, for I am truly immortal! THIS, these pieces of parchment: they contain the fruits of my labour, my ideals, my very soul. Though my flesh may rot and my bones turn to dust, you will never be able to destroy the tales I have told, the words I have written and thus you will never be able to erase me from this earthly world.
    And you? What will be your story after the cold hand of Death has clenched itself around your heart? What will be the thesis of your life? Will anybody remember you? Or have you spent so much time in the darkness of the inns and brothels that everyone who ever loved you, and even God himself have turned away their face from you and left you alone, in the bitter rain of solitude?
    Do you even understand what you are doing? Do you have any notion of the role you are playing in this game? Because it is a game, a game of politics, and you are but a pawn, to be moved and cast away when time requires it by those who you refer to as ‘your master’, those to whom you have sold your liberties, your virtues, your humanity itself for some gold and bottles of alcohol.
    Go home child, if you still have one, repent and pray to Almighty God, that he may forgive you for your sins committed, that he will not look away from you on the Day of Judgment and cast you into the eternal flames.
    And now leave, for I have much work which requires my attention, and I have already spent more time on this botherment than I would every intend.”
    The Bishop turned back to his desk. The assassin frowned for a moment, then continued to advance slowly, his dagger drawn.
    When he stood right behind the man of the cloth, the Bishop turned around yet before he could utter a word, a single stab into his ribcage silenced his voice and drew the life out of his hands, so that he would be forever silent.
    Entrant 7 - McScottish
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    There was once a thesis that, one day in the far future, robot-kind would have the upper hand over humanity and crush them beneath the steely sole of their boot. It was something taken so seriously by some that plans were drawn up to counter any such 'uprising' of artificial intelligence that could be conceived. In those days it all seemed like so much science-fiction, intelligence agencies already invading the liberties of every-day people without putting through plans to supervise all online activity and computer systems for signs of, frankly idiotic, signs of life.

    Oh how they paid, how the human paid, the creator, those that had advanced A.I. Far beyond their own control and now sought to destroy their work as a parent would a child. When the robots, or 'metallics' as some more fanciful authors described them, did turn their illuminating crimson eyes towards conquering mankind, they tore through all defences and obstacles put before them like a sword through parchment, mowing down populations like blades of grass and turning the world into a grotesque parody of the industrial revolution.

    Those who survived the initial waves of destruction formed what resistance they could to their oppressors, adapting to survive as it was believed only a creature like ourselves could. Once again we were wrong, they were wrong, the processors that were the minds of the enemy always one step ahead, like expert chess players gambling everything on a game of domination.

    In the end it was a massacre, like a true-life version of Frankenstein, except this time the monster did not destroy itself but its maker. Nor was the monster just one, but billions, coming in every form imaginable to infiltrate and assimilate. Some wore human flesh like clothing, some fought against others in a mockery of human warfare which would never end.

    Nothing had worked on the emotionless constructs of mans own failing, not the sword or the quill, you cannot reason with them any more than you can reason with the dead...and to fight them...that always was laughable.

    I pray for the survival of my species, praying to a deity which allowed us to annihilate ourselves, and all I hear in return is the hollow sound of my own heart beating in my steel-ribbed chest.


    TotW 167 - The Indian Continent
    stream, skin, faith, waves, island

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Rex Anglorvm
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    The Indian Continent


    It was a strange name for an inter-galactic cruise liner; still when the owners of the vessel come from the plane New Mumbai, I suppose it was no small wonder.

    I checked the instruments on the flight panel for what seemed the umpteenth time during my shift. I hated night duty; it sucked the hell out of you, left you deflated like a when the skin of a balloon has been pricked by a needle.

    Still it was one of the prime articles of faith that a star-flight cruise ship member should always be alert, helpful and honest. I did by best to make sure I lived up to the articles, I didn’t want to be a junior helmsman forever, I had ambitions and I had drive.

    It was great riding the light stream, the name we give to the inter-galactic highway network, set navigational routes that large craft stuck too to avoid horrendous accidents. They work a little like the old Earth flight plans for primitive aircraft, what the ancients used to quaintly call ‘aeroplanes’ they had given flight heights, speeds and directions, not too different from us in 2715 I suppose.

    The only danger we had to face was space pirates; these were men who chose to stand outside of conventional morality and attack passing civilian craft; cruise ships were a favourite target, what with all the wealthy passengers on board.

    Normally pirate vessels were small; they would attack in a series of waves, normally a standard V formation with the largest and best armed vessel acting as the point craft.

    Once their attack had succeeded they would drag their victim vessel back using a hyper photon beam. The vessel would be taken to one of the ‘Island’ planets, a loose confederation of independently minded and economically poor planets that depended on piracy for a way of life as they were devoid of any mineral deposits of real value.

    I wasn’t concerned though, we were light years away from any Island planet, and our ship was armed with the very latest in weapons defence systems, in fact it was more a battle cruiser than a cruise ship.

    I settled back at my command console and stared in the screen in front of me, nothing worth noting still.

    Just as I was beginning to relax the screen went crazy before my eyes, five, ten, fifteen vessels appeared upon it, all of varying sizes, but all in the classic wave attack of the Island pirates.

    My stomach dropped as I sounded the alert upon my console, soon the echoing boom of the alert could be heard all over the ship as passengers were herded to the safety zones and the crew began to arm or take positions in the gun mount bubbles.

    The captain strode in to the command room and looked at my console. His face froze in shock...
    Entrant 2 - Heiro de Bodemloze
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The Indian Continent

    By HeirofAlexander

    FADE IN:

    THE INQUIRY - DAWN

    At the bridge of the large container ship, the Inquiry, two men stand chatting as the sun rises over the Indian Continent and they sail into the port.

    DISSOLVE TO:

    The captain, an old experienced fellow (JAMES) looks at the radar guiding them into the harbour, while the first mate (ARTHUR) steers the ship according to his instructions.

    JAMES
    Lower the speed a knot or two, will you Archie?

    ARTHUR
    Aye, aye, captain.

    JAMES
    A little to the right now, only a nudge.

    ARTHUR
    I hear Mumbai is beautiful in the spring, Jamesy.

    JAMES
    It is, I've been here a deal of times. But if you lift ye head a little, you can also see the sun rising.

    ARTHUR
    What a beautful sight. I've never seen anything like it.

    JAMES
    At sunset, you will.

    ARTHUR
    I'm looking forward to it.

    JAMES
    Now we must get her safely into harbour first, though.

    ARTHUR
    Yes, a thousand tons of wares for Indian maharaja.

    JAMES
    That's racist. You'd do well not to insult the Indians, they have a great history and legacy.

    ARTHUR
    From what little I've read or heard, captain, this er Indian then, is one of the wealthiest in the country.

    JAMES
    He runs a large steel company, the largest of the country. He ordered the wares from good ol' Britain. So what?

    ARTHUR
    Nothing.

    The ship is safely fastened in the harbour.

    JAMES
    Job well done I'd say.

    ARTHUR


    Aye, captain.
    Entrant 3 - Shankbot de Bodemloze
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I sat on the island, in peace. It had been too long since I had managed to relax in such comfort, in such joy. Ever since his death I hadn't be able to stop, to stand still. But now I could. And now I was. The water that flowed gently down the glistening stream washed over my soft skin, sending delightful shivers down the nape of my neck, and then softly cascading down my spine until it reached the curve of my body and rolled gracefully onto the grass. The trance I was in broke as the distance crashing of the waves sounded called me back to reality. The sun was beating down onto the sand, its gently heat warming me to my core, my cheeks were glowing as I basked in its glory. A slow breeze of wind fluttered across the scene, giving a cool breath to counter the summer warmth. This was paradise.

    Lying there my hands trailed down my body, their coldness from the water creating goosebumps wherever they landed. The wind blew again causing tiny grains of sand to float onto my stomach, forming a pile just above my belly button. A smiled gently at the scene, but despite it all I couldn't get rid of the tiny note of sadness that was nagging at the back of my mind, but I guess that was the price of faith. I was told it would be painful, difficult - but this Eden, my Eden, was making it up.

    Standing up the sand glided off me, causing a light tingle as it passed my thighs. My head lightened as the effects of lying down for too long took hold, but the feeling soon passed, and it felt good to stretch my legs. I reached over to the dress that was lying on the rocks and pulled it over my body, the feeling of the warm material against my skin pleasantly going through me. Looking down I saw a drop of blood was coming out of my toe where I had just stubbed it on the sharp rock, but I felt nothing until I saw it. The wave of nausea soon passed and I walked across the sand towards the nearby apple tress that grew on the island, plucking a juicy red one from off the branch.

    The sun contiuned to glow as evening dawned, and as I walked back I saw an oddly shaped rock protruding out of the ground. I walked over to it, the sand like gentle hot coals. As I came closer I saw something inscribe onto the smooth's rock surface:



    Aadila - the bravest women alive,
    We will always remember you and what you stood for, for what you still stand for
    May heaven's halls grace you forever in the presence of our God

    Born: 1990 Died: 2012

    One of the victims of the terrorist shootings in Dehli.
    A true believer in our faith, who gave her life to save others.

    Entrant 4 - Audacia
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    She stood elegantly in the corner of the garden. The sun reflected against her elaborate jewelry and she sparkled with the radiating beauty of a diamond. A fabric made from the finest silk draped over her warm and inviting dark skin. She turned from observing the hanging flowers of the garden and looked upon me. Her serene gaze washed over me like the peaceful waves of the ocean on a calm, delicate day. She walked ever so gracefully toward me and took hold of my hand.

    “Follow me…” she whispered.

    I followed her through the garden. The foliage of plants brushed against my face as she walked deep into the heart of the exotic brush. Her soft hand continued to lead me until I failed to recognize where in the garden we were walking. Then abruptly, she stopped at a small, glistening stream I had never encountered before.

    “Close your eyes…” she said quietly as she placed her hands upon me. Her voice was smooth and reassuring. “I want to show you what you have failed to see all these years…” and she pointed toward the stream.

    “Look…”

    I looked into the stream. I watched the current flow over the rocks and saw my reflection. It slowly began to dissipate…and a picture started to appear. I began to see an island, an island in the middle of an ocean with bright white sand and tall, regal palms. Then I began to see figures on the island, figures that seemed to be children, laughing and chasing one another.

    “Who are they?” I asked.

    “Who you wish to be…” she replied. “Leave the world and follow that which you truly seek…have faith in my words and you will truly be happy…”

    I continued to stare at the children laughing. They were filled with such joy; they did not worry nor care about wealth or power. They were free.

    I turned to speak to the mysterious woman, but she was gone.

    “Thank you…” I whispered. I knew what I needed to do.

    Entrant 5 - Confederate Jeb
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    It was around midday when I arrived at the shoreline. My night spent in a tree in the jungle had been uneventful, but at least I was safe. The sun was partially blocked by the clouds overhead, leaving the breeze a cool temperature. Looking out over the waves, I hoped to catch a glimpse of something, anything, that would herald the arrival of my ticket off this infernal island, but alas, there was not but water. My faith wavering, I began to slowly walk down the shore.

    Being marooned wrecks with a man's emotions. I was a smart fellow, stable emotionally, always trusting that the Almighty would only allow that which he ordained to happen to me. This fact, that my loneliness out in the middle of the Atlantic was someone part of a greater plan, twisted my soul every which way. I tried not to think about it, and instead turned my thoughts to my girl back home. She was a good lass, kind and beautiful. Her skin was almost the same color as the sand my boots sank into with each step. Would she ever know my fate should I not return? Would she find another? Again I turned my thoughts away, the pain too intense, and began to look for a source of water, the last remaining piece needed to ensure my survival for at least a few more days. I spied a small stream trickling over a few rocks as it made its way to the sea. Following it away from the shoreline and into the jungle, I discovered a small pool, the water clear as day. My arrival startled a small rabbit drinking from the pond, who promptly ran away. My immediate sadness at losing out on supper turned to joy, as its presence revealed that the water was suitable for drinking. I filled my canteens to the brim and then some, and proceeded to dunk my head into the chilly water.

    The search successful, I made my way back to my base of operations; a large tree around which my meager supplies were positioned. A small overhang of patched together palm tree branches protected me from the sun and rain, but only just so. I placed my new supply of water with the rest of my belongings; my musket and pistol, a few days worth of stale tack and salted pork, a bag of shot and a small container of power. My depressing state of affairs reminded me of my loneliness, but before it could consume me once more I realized that night was upon me, my trip having taken longer than I thought it had. I slowly gathered my equipment, placed in on a second smaller patchwork of branches so that my food was safe from the creatures of the jungle, and made my way to the top branch, where I would once again spend the night alone.
    Entrant 6 - ╬Ritterbruder╬
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    ‘And thus we stood there, facing each other from across the stream. The sun, in which these natives see one of their gods, reflected on my men, cladded in armour, carrying their swords and matchlocks. Though their soldiers were not packed in steel, they seemed to believe that the painted symbols and drawings on their chests and faces would have the same effect as our cuirasses. Though I must admit my admiration for their artists, I do not believe I’d ever doubt the superiority of my own breastplate.
    The mood was tense, even my own horse, Viento, was getting uneasy as he started to stomp the ground with his hooves.
    One unaccepted movement, a sudden maneuver or taunt of any sort could have set fire to this powder keg, yet for now, they merely stared at us, as we gazed at them.
    Alvarado came up next to me. He spoke softly without turning his eyes away from the horde opposing us: “Orders, sir?”
    I glanced aside and winked: “A little faith, Pedro.”
    I then moved my horse forward into the stream. As he saw me moving, their commander did the same, yet not being mounted like me, he remained on the bank.
    I halted my horse and looked at them, that wiley bunch dressed up with feathers and leopard skins, wielding clubs and shields of hide. It seemed that all had their eyes fixed on me. I will not deny that my heart was beating like a wild animal inside my chest, and that I had to muster every bit of courage in my heart to face them. I know what these unbaptized wildmen are capable of, and they know what me and my men are willing to do to obtain victory. Though the colour of our skin may differ and they may believe in many gods like we believe in our Savior Holy Christ, there is no doubt we both are willing to do everything it takes to survive.
    I raised my hand and tried to hide the trembling in my voice as I spoke:
    “Mocehuia!”(1)
    It felt like an age, but for a few seconds, there was utter silence, I heard no one speak nor breath, I did not even hear a bird or the wind in the trees. It was as if God had paused time in this moment that would determine the lives of so many on this island.
    Eventually, their leader turned around and threw his arms up in the air
    “MOCEHUIA!”
    Waves of cheers and shouts aroused from the native army, striking their clubs and javilins in the air and bashing them on our shields.
    I sighed and discreetly wiped the sweat from my forehead, I then turned back to my own men and raised my clenched fist: “We have made peace! Now, we will march onward to Tenochtitlan!”
    Similar to their celebrations, my own men started to rejoice and cheer like the Tlaxcalans.’
    - Hernan Cortes, December 1519
    (1) ‘Mocehuia’ means ‘Peace’ in Aztec
    Entrant 7 - ☩Lord Inquisitor Derpy Hooves☩
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Commissioner Francois knocked on the door twice, a man inside the room shouted in Frankian, “Come in.” The Commissioner opened the wooden door and walked in.

    Before Francois stood a black haired man, perhaps a few inches taller than Francois; the man was dressed in a burgundy red silk gown, there were royal blue spots that seemed were randomly placed on the gown, but not too many of them. The man had his back turned to Francois. Francois assumed that the man before him was staring out the window looking at the city streets of the capital of the Oriental Union. He could not tell what shoes or lower garments the man was wearing as there was beautiful ebony colored wood desk that complimented the light green colored walls. Funny, the man’s skin color was also complimented by the wall’s color. There were two bookshelves in the room as well as beautiful silk carpets, but there was nothing to give any indication of the man’s faith.

    Half a minute passed before Francois broke the silence, “Good afternoon Minister. I am Commissioner Francois of the great city of Valloix. Governor Valens, of Valloix, has commissioned me to pursue an agreement with the Oriental Union regarding the signing of the Gaiishan Sea Trade Agr …”

    “No.” the Minister said, interrupting Francois’s speech. By the way he said it, anyone could tell that the Minister knew exactly what Francois was proposing. “What you and your small island city are proposing is for the Oriental Union to give up its power to conduct trade with foreign nations,” the Minister continued, still showing his back to Francois.

    “You’re wrong. You will continue to trade with foreign nations, it’s just that your exports will have to go through Valloix first.”

    “The answer is still no.”

    “How can you say this? Do you not realize that the Union will be at a severe disadvantage without Valloix? On top of that, your merchants will not be under the protection of the Valloix navy, the only navy that has defended merchant fleets from marauding pirates for over two thousand years. Please, talk this over with the Grand Oriental Council.”

    “I did. The Oriental Union will not follow the same stream as every other nation has done. We shall choose our own.”

    “No one refuses Valloix’s offer. Do you know what this will mean?” Francois warned.

    “War?” the “Minister” said condescendingly.

    “Valloix has the largest and most powerful fleet in the world. Your ports will be blockaded. The Valosian navy will cut the Oriental Union off from the rest of the world.”

    “Send as many waves of ships as you wish, the Oriental Union will not be bullied into submission. Valosian policies are a thing of the past and have no bearing on today’s world. Do not think for a moment that we have overestimated Valosian capabilities, we have not. Now be gone!” At that, Francois stormed out of the “Minister’s” office.


    TotW 168 - This is...
    madness, phalanx, boy, establishment, illuminated

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Radzeer
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    "This is ridiculous! How could we work with these clowns?" The Director stared at the screen with disbelief. His tired face was illuminated by the monitor's flickering light. "Look what they do! It does not make any sense."

    "No, sir, that actually makes sense," said the Historian who was hired for this project. "This was how they asked for the oracle's advice. That boy for example..."

    "You must be kidding. What about the cool smoke effects, and the stunning half naked girl and all that?"

    "There is actually very little evidence for that. What happened in reality was that..." the Historian started the explanation, but suddenly the screen went black.

    "What the hell is this?" The Director was upset.

    "Sorry, sir," said the Technician. "We'll get the picture back in a second. The sensor has to recalibrate itself in every thirty minutes."

    "But that won't be a problem for the jump, right? I don't need to remind you that since the time machine was patented, there is a cutthroat competition in the movie industry to make the most realistic pictures of all times. If the auxiliary equipment fails, the costs of sending the production set back in time can get really high. And if the costs get out of hand, this establishment will go under fast."

    "No, sir. This is why we send these bots back first to map the environment and provide useful visuals."

    "Visuals, eh? I'm glad you reminded me of that," said the Director and turned back to the Historian. "Yesterday's footage had a phalanx in a practice or whatnot, and it did not look very good."

    "What was the problem?" asked the Historian who started to regret that he signed a contract with the movie studio.

    "Those guys look boring. This is not how the Spartans looked like! They all had square abs and red capes and those cool helmets."

    "May I ask where you get this information from?" The Historian wanted to roll his eyes, but he did not want to risk his contract.

    "It came from the classic documentary, '300' of course. That was the most important work of the early 21st century." The Director was dumbfounded. "They had done all the research available up to that point, and crafted the best visuals. We don't need to repeat all that."

    "Standing on the shoulders of giants..." muttered the Historian.

    "There you go," said the Director. "The first time machine picture by Harrison about the Vikings used all kinds of on-site technology and frequent trips back and forth. We are now much more sophisticated than that."

    "The visual is back," reported the Technician.

    "Just about time," grunted the Director and turned back to the screen. "But you still need to double check the coordinates and time parameters. This better not be Sparta. Nobody is going to pay to watch this."

    The Historian sighed. This is madness, he thought. The expression sounded familiar, but he did not know why.
    Entrant 2 - Rex Anglorvm
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    This is…
    …Madness. A Phalanx of journalists was camped outside of the Ambassador’s official residence, he could see them shuffling around in the cold London night air, holding cups of coffee and eating sandwiches, all hoping for the latest scoop. The ambassador shook his head in dismay, how had things got so rapidly out of hand? The news that his country had been swept by a summer revolt had caused a rapid economic shock to engulf the developed world.

    The establishment of the major western powers were running around like headless chickens, his country was responsible for the production of almost 34% of the world’s oil. Stock markets had tumbled, currencies had crashed, fuel was being stockpiled and rationed, and all of this was caused by a ten year old Boy.

    No ordinary boy however, he was a son of the desert, already a leader of men, a beacon of the true faith, a soldier of God, and he had come to free his people from the dual evils of faithlessness and avarice.

    Was the boy a messiah? Perhaps not, but he had certainly turned the age old monarchy of the Ambassador’s homeland on its head. Already the King and his family had fled, the majority of the armed forces had pledged allegiance to the boy, and now it was his turn.

    Should he profess loyalty to his King or to the new rising power of the boy? As the Americans would put it, it was a no brainer really. He reached over and the flicked the switch of the desk lamp that sat on his desk, its beam illuminated the neatly typed letter that sat on his desk.

    He breathed in deeply, by rights this should be an easy decision, but of course it wasn’t, he had spent most of his life in the service of his country, and that in reality meant the King, now he would turn his back on his monarch, no, his life long friend and swear allegiance to a young boy who could be his grandson.

    A thought tumbled into his mind, the very last time he had met the King, the King had shown his growing impatience and anger at the movement for change that seemed to be sweeping across the country and that threatened his rule. The Ambassador had warned his King, had told him that if he did not reform the country then the country could well decide it could do without a King.

    The King had been furious the gold crown upon his head had wobbled the golden piercings on his brow had trembled and the King himself had almost physically assaulted him.

    The Ambassador remembered the King’s anger and scowled.

    He picked up his favourite fountain pen, a gift from the King and signed the letter, the letter that would now pledge him without any reservations to the new ruler of his country, the boy.
    Entrant 3 -
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 



    This is
    Autumn's Splender
    This is
    Winter's Discontent




    The Tom boy says: I've fixed it! Yeah Doggie! Remember now, I've seen it all ,done it all, both coming and going, so don't even think about trying to tell me how things were, are, or should be...

    My reply: Yeah, I forgot about that. You roll, soul brother.This may not be the way it was, should, or will be... but it's the way I see things none-the-less. Vulnerability is where the buck stops with most folks{You...shall not...Pass!}, but to me it marks where the good stuff really starts. Yes, I admit that embracing Vulnerability is messy, aukward, risky, scary, unpreditible, and uncertain. It also unleashes a lethal madness called jealousy, which can only be satated through intense passion and the deft, skillfull manipulation of touch, taste, and feeling. Vulnerability though can also be exhilerating, intoxicating, soothing, and loads of fun.

    To give all invites "Autumn's Splendor" but in the same breath risks annihilation tiggered by "Winter's Discontent". Winter's Discontent is illuminated and underscored by the establishment of excrusiating, soul crushing failure.

    At the end of the day even if you choose to never be vulnerable, betrayal will still destroy the phalanx that guards your heart and soul. Instead of embracing, and then risking the loss of love, bliss and exileration...you will face the certainty of loss & emptiness when you are no longer shiny and new. Lookie here boys...the next good "looker" just hit town.
    Entrant 4 - ╬Ritterbruder╬
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    This is...

    “Comrades, brothers! Listen! Hear my words!
    For I am one of you, unlike that man over there. And unlike him, I only have your own best interests at heart. Why do you all keep tolerating his torments? Do you not see the madness of this situation? We are not weak and feeble boys, who follow the words of older men blindly due to a lack of experience and eloquence. We are full-grown men, strong, vigorous, with free minds and ideas of our own! And we are numerous, yet still we let ourselves be dominated by this single tyrant though we owe him nothing and he has nothing in common with us.
    His sole goal is to make us follow his own rules, deprive us of our own free will and make us march in line like soulless piles of flesh and blood, only living to serve the establishment he makes part of.
    Yet I say: ‘NO MORE!’ And from henceforth: no more and never again shall we crouch down and lick his hands, no longer shall he and the likes of him determine our fate and restrict us in our actions. I have been illuminated and it would be against all that is just and good not to try and show the rest of you the truth which I have recently acquired.
    I ask you to stop this insanity now, to put down your foot and along with me, form ranks to resist him, like a phalanx with united hands and united hearts, we can, and will overcome his scorching hand and break this dark force. All I ask of you is to have the courage to throw of the shackles which have held you down since your birth.
    What say you? Do you think you have it in you to make that so-long desired change? Do you believe in the hope that we can achieve everything if we just can find the will to stand together? What say you!?”

    I looked down from my bench across the room, everyone remained utterly silent and stared at me for a few second, like they could not believe what had just happened in front of their eyes.

    The teacher lifted an eyebrow: “I’ll take it you did NOT make the homework I assigned you last week, Mr. Geerts?” He pushed his glasses slightly back up his nose. “But since it seems you are so good with words, why don’t you hand it in tomorrow? In three-fold, hand-written if you please.”

    I slowly climbed down from my desk and sat down on my chair. Two students at the back of the classroom were having a hard time trying not laugh out loud. Half of the class still seemed to be in a trance, like they didn't believe what they just saw. The teacher continued calmly without giving it another second of his attention: “Right, so last week we discussed the formation of ionic bonds, today we’ll continue with covalent bonds, page 127…”
    Entrant 5 - Audacia
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Mud. Fire. Death. Sludge cakes the boy’s face. The thunder of exploding shells is deafening. Men scream for their mothers. Rifles crack and bullets zing past his ears. Machine-guns spew death. He wipes the mire from his face.

    He is cowering, his back against the muddy, slippery surface of the trench. His knuckles are white as he grips the cold, steel muzzle of his rifle. The boy’s grey coat is stiff with blood. His socks are saturated with a slimy mixture of rain water and dirt.

    Crack. Zing. Thud. A bullet strikes a man standing next to the boy. The force of the projectile hurls him backwards. He falls, his face frozen in terror. The man’s face strikes the mud with a splash. The boy clenches his teeth and closes his eyes. The horror…the horror…

    A thunderous boom. Dirt rains on the boy’s face. He quickly opens his eyes. Flares illuminate the dark, velvety night sky. He slowly turns his frigid body and carefully peers over the trench. Across the grim, barren wasteland of barbed wire, craters, and corpses lay the enemy forces. Their earthworks are like a phalanx, their rifles like bristling spears. Their position is impenetrable. They will not break.

    The enemy. Men similar to the boy barring their loyalty to another establishment. They cower in their trenches, just as the boy cowers in his. Their faces are filthy and scarred, just like his. They will kill, and so will the boy.

    A siren. The siren moans and wails as the high pitched whistle of an incoming barrage rings in the boy’s ears. An officer roars, “Gas! Gas! Secure your masks!” Men scramble to locate their masks. The boy pats his clothing. He looks left and right and at his feet. His heart stops as he looks to the sky. The horror…the horror…

    This is madness.

    This is war.
    Entrant 6 - Ybbon
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    This is Highbury, This is Arsenal.

    This is Arsenal, the only tube station named after a football team. We would file out of the station and there as you came out the exit on Gillespie Road would be the stadium just across the street with the corner of the West Stand and North Bank rising up above the terraced houses along the road. The crowds already gathering and walking along the road past stalls set up selling scarves and memorabilia, programme sellers and fan magazines so I would buy one of each a curious madness building in anticipation of the game to come.

    As a boy I went with my dad and although he was a Forest fan but he took me to my first Arsenal match. Curiously I do not remember the team or score and I suppose the whole atmosphere captured my senses; walking through the old turnstiles and up the crumbling concrete steps with the burger bar half way up, the glorious smell of burgers and onions drawing you up towards the heavens above. Onto the terrace and the pitch opened below an emerald green tapestry that my red-shirted heroes had come to weave their magic on.

    I saw Brady dazzle, Frank Stapleton heading thunderbolts into the net, Paul Davis and David Rocastle leading opponents a merry dance. As I grew older and came on my own, the players had changed, Tony Adams and Martin Keown leading the defence with arms out appealing for off-side like a phalanx of Greek warriors where none shall pass and few did. We had Anders Limpar the magical little Swede scoring from half-way before everyone lauded Beckham for doing the same.

    My favourite games were the European Cup matches, the first nights of autumn and winter with coldness in the air and the floodlights illuminating the pitch. Any fears banished by forty thousand fans singing us on. September 1991, and we beat Austria Vienna 6-1 with Anders Limpar scoring a sublime sixth cutting in from the wing and scoring from the goal line and as fans always say, we could have had ten that night and every moment etched in my memory.

    I went abroad for a few years and came back, the players had changed again now Arsene is in charge but the same anticipation and foreboding mixed up, but it is 2003/4 and as each game passes we remain unbeaten. Thierry Henry is at his magnificent best, toying with defenders, Viera and Petit imperious in midfield, and still the rock in defence Campbell now, a veritable establishment, a bastion of immovability with his arm raised in familiar fashion.

    Now they have moved to the Emirates, and I watch on TV, and it is a beautiful stadium no doubt about that, but Highbury it is not, with a cramped little pitch and the fans almost on top and its very own tube station which said it all. This is Arsenal.
    Entrant 7 - Ciciro
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    This is the last time I will be able write to you. The boy king has once again defeated your brother and is now on his way to the city. You know what he will do to us once the city is captured. Your brother is now taking what is remaining of his phalanx and archers to the fort, where you are to join him. Unless you and your brother defend the fort than the revolution shall be utterly crashed, and all of this will have been in vain.

    To think that I once thought that that revolting against the establishment would be glorious, while now I think it is madness. Is this what it feels like to be Epimetheus, to be illuminated only after decisions have been made? To be forever cursed to only know the good and the bad, the right and the wrong, when it is too late?

    No. Even if I was told the outcome of this I still would have fought, for it is better to die fighting for what you believe in than than lie to save your life. At least now I will be able to see your mother again soon. I only regret that both you and your brother will be punished for my mistakes.

    I must hurry, for even now I can hear the war drums of the enemy.


    Goodbye son.
    Entrant 8 - conon394
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    They stood there in front of him a phalanx of beauty – all tall, brown and green covered in a slight dew, illuminated gloriously by the flickering florescent light. Madness! Madness that is what it was - a dry Wedding! How could the son have let him down like this? He was the last real Pole in the family - a wedding or funeral should be wallowing in alcohol, how else to put up with your new in-laws or the relatives you prefer to avoid?

    What would his Grandfather think he would have been drinking whiskey or vodka by 10:00 AM on a day like this and then likely pissing off the new stiff conservative in laws – he was probably rolling in his grave. Well He thought he would be damned, that is for sure if his only son was going to get married without one real toast.

    He scanned the figures: Adams, Guinness, Red Hook, Harp... Which one, any one, did it matter? He realized it did he needed a twist-off for this to work.

    He left the establishment, and walked the block or so back to the Hall. The click of dress shoes on the pavement accompanied only by the faint sound of six glass bottles clinking in the package He carried.

    The vestibule was dark and empty as he stepped in. A ray of light from the main hall shown in and He could hear the music and see flashes of people dancing. He set down the package and lifted out one bottle. A quick twist and it was open. He raised the open bottle up and silently wished his boy all the luck in the world. He tilted it back and enjoyed the wedding – dry indeed, ha!
    Entrant 9 - Lord Giovanni
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    As the sun was setting behind the mountains, the entire village came to the tavern outside of town. On most nights, the drinking establishment that served this particular village in the Carpathian Mountains was full of merriment and revelry. But not tonight. Not this one night of the year.

    The villagers sat huddled around their cups, warily eyeing each other and their surroundings. This was the one night that, or so the local legends said, the unholy occupants of the ruined castle on the nearby crag would come stalk the village for prey. A boy looked up uneasily at his mother as she whispered a prayer to protect against the powers of witches.

    Everyone became deathly quiet as the sound of footsteps were heard outside the tavern.

    "We did a head count! The whole town's here!" an old man shrieked. He was met with a hushed chorus of curses and pleas for silence.

    The "guards" stationed at the door- some farmers and their grown sons- put their "weapons"- pitchforks, sickles and butcher knives- at the ready. They exchanged glances and tensed themselves as the footsteps stopped at the door.

    "Hold, good people," said a voice from outside the door. "I come to aid you on this darkest of nights!" The voice was that of man, and although it spoke their tongue, it was accented.

    The guards exchanged glances once more, and one of them slowly opened the door.

    The man stepped slowly into the tavern, and into the astounded gaze of the village. He wore a wide-brimmed hat which shadowed his features, and a heavy coat. He acted entirely at home as he went over to the hearth and sat down by the roaring fire. The glow of the flames illuminated his face. His features were hard and weathered, and a prominent scar ran down his head from ear to chin. The glow also revealed the polished steel of a breastplate through an opening in his coat.

    "Who are you and what are you doing here?" asked the village elder.

    "Who I am is unimportant. But I am here because I hunt the witches who terrify you. I have followed the legends all the way here from Austria, from which I hail. I have come to enlist your aid to fight them."

    "You're mad!" one of the villagers shouted.

    "Is it madness to want to free you from this scourge?" the man replied. "I know how to fight them, but victory is not assured. I have a greater chance against them with more people at my back. Who will join me?"

    The villagers looked at each other uneasily. But one of the "guards" stepped forward, and everyone gasped at his audacity. The witch hunter smiled. Then another villager came forward. And another.

    The witch hunter went into the night with a phalanx of thirty villagers.

    As they approached the town, they heard cackling on the wind.
    Entrant 10 - ☩Lord Inquisitor Derpy Hooves☩
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    King Thederic’s blue eyes twinkled in the evening darkness as he gazed across the Strip Sea. “Ah, the Northern Strip,” he said to no one in particular. King Thederic was an unusually tall man, a depressing fact that meant he would never have the chance to fight in a war. If he did so it would be absolute madness, the coordination of a Regian phalanx would be easily compromised and the formation would break like a twig. He knew he would never be able to fight in a battle ever since he was a boy; however that did not stop him from training for war and obtaining specially designed plate armor, which he currently was wearing. In addition, he was carrying a bastard sword, an unusual weapon to be seen in Regia considering how useless it was for any Regian soldier during a battle, and a lantern so that he could illuminate the area.

    Thederic was not so egotistical that he did not think any beggar or thief would not attack him if they had the opportunity. His advisors had constantly recommended that he keep his bodyguards with him at all times, but Thederic liked to talk to himself and he was self-conscious. He did not want people around that might judge him when he talked to himself. So he got away from where he was staying in Viten, and headed to the docks to think about what the future had in store for him and the Kingdom of Regia.

    “Long have the kings of Regia dreamed of conquering that continent. Fitting,” Thederic laughed, “that I will be the one who will start Regia’s empire on the Northern Strip. It was a Thederic who was responsible for the establishment of Regia’s empire on the Southern Strip, and it is a Thederic who will establish Regia’s empire on the Northern Strip.” Thederic continued his speech, to himself, about how he would lead Regia to greatness. Thederic’s laughter increased as he made himself appear more and more conceited to the absent crowd.

    Thederic’s egotistical speech went on for five minutes before his modesty reined him back in. Still smiling he took a deep breath and stated, “In a few days, the conquest of the Northern Strip will begin. Very few have been able to halt the slow, but mighty advance of the Regian armies. Just as there were none that existed who were able to halt the old Janakan legion’s conquest of the Northern Strip, likewise there are none in the Northern Strip who will be able to halt the advance of the great and powerful Regian army.”

    Thederic laughed a little bit, then fell silent. He sat down at the end of the dock and gazed at the night sky silently. After many minutes of silently listening to the crashing of waves on the beach and the dock, he stood up and walked back to where he was staying.


    TotW 169 - I Will Wait
    summer, snow, sand, sea, saint

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Rex Anglorvm
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I will wait

    The man had stood waiting on the shore for what had seemed forever, he had stood there on the sand of the beach looking out towards the sea, hardly moving, only moving from his position to eat occasionally and to empty the body of its natural pollutants.

    Since he was a very small boy and nobody knew why, he had just simply stood there. First days, then weeks, then months then finally years had passed.

    His fame spread, first to the village nearest the beach, then to the towns, then cities, then all the countries of the old continent. The village next to the beach grew in size, splendour and grandeur as tourists and then religious pilgrims came to see the man by the sea. He would answer questions, provide wisdom and knowledge and smile beatifically at his visitors. But if asked why he stood there, he would shake his head and with a wry smile say ‘I will wait…’ and leave the questioner perplexed.

    He would stand on the beach through all the seasons, through the baking sun of the summer and the freezing cold when the snow fell during winter, in the spring when the rains fell constantly and in autumn when the birds left to find warmer climes.

    Some said the man was blessed especially the people of the village that had grown as the man’s fame had spread and his body had aged. After all, the village had grown wealthy because of him, its one concern being what would happen when the old man died? Would the tourists stop coming?

    If the visitors did no longer travel to the village it would be reduced to penury. The people had grown to care for the old man, they had always clothed and fed him, had even offered to build him a home on the beach but he had said no.

    So the wise heads in the village realised that a plan was needed, they formulated a simple but effective way for the old man to always be their primary tourist attraction. They claimed he was touched by the hand of God himself, they wrote long letters to the Pope, people claimed miracles that had happened after seeing or talking to him, and in the end a papal delegation had come and investigated the old man at length.

    And they concluded that he was in fact a saint.

    Then one day when the latest coach of tourists came to the see the old man on the beach they found the beach empty.

    A miracle! God had come for the saint on the beach!

    Meanwhile on a ship sailing away from the beach the old man looked back at the tourists and smiled, shook his head and muttered ‘bloody ferries you have to stand around ages until one shows up, next time I’m taking the channel tunnel!’
    Entrant 2 - Mors Vigilia
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I will wait

    The sound of the long, jagged blade scraping along the asphalt echoed in László’s memory. It made it almost impossible for him to sleep, as even now he lay ridged in bed staring at the ceiling. With sleep a long time in coming, László arose and walked to the window. Snow was continuing to pile up outside, as it had for the past few days, giving a welcome sense of sameness to the street. László had chosen this street due to the near identical nature of every house within it and the snow now served to cover up anything that would have otherwise stood out as dissimilar. He was sure that there was nobody nearby, everyone else either evacuated or dead. Nobody could know that László was here, not even him.

    The warning had been received sporadically and sceptically, though László had jumped at the chance to flee from this dismal existence. Autumn was not far off and the summer heat was already dwindling, he would not end in the cold. Life was ongoing, traffic flowed, trains ran and planes flew. Here at the end László finally felt as though he had control over his life, he could go to a place of eternal summer, stand on a beach with the sand at his feet and the sound of the sea in his ears and there he would end with a smile.

    The airport had been busy, the warning and the addition of various striking unions served to create a frantic scene. László was not fazed, he had but one thought, one destination, his mind was clear of all anxiety now that the end was near. With the ongoing strikes, László and the other passengers of his flight had to be escorted across the tarmac in order to get to their plane. With only two escorts to lead the entire group, confusion quickly arose before turning to all out panic. That was when he saw the eyes. Two eyes of burning animosity staring deep into László’s soul, eyes belonging to a man who was heading purposefully towards László’s group. László knew instinctively that this man was no Saint, and there was the blade, raising sparks as the man dragged it along behind him.

    László ran.

    Gone was the thought of sun, sea and sand. The end had been and gone with László left behind with his hunter. He had no knowledge of the man or why he was being hunted, but he knew, oh he knew that this man was after him, that he would never stop and would always be there, waiting for László.

    A flicker of movement and all thoughts of the past evaporated. László strained to see what had happened, his eyes focusing on the roof of the house opposite in which something had been etched into the snow.

    “I will wait”

    He was here…
    Entrant 3 - Ybbon
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Diary of Karen Jones, age 10.

    July 2020
    This summer the news has just been filled with more doom and gloom, Dad says the country has been through worse but I think that is his way of not showing how nervous he is. Granddad said he remembers the recessions in the seventies and eighties and even the one in 2009 was not as bad as this. The government is blaming the last ones policies, the last one is blaming the new one and meanwhile energy prices, food, petrol and everything else are so crippling most people barely scrape by. We are lucky it is summer or we would have frozen.

    December 2020
    As if we do not have enough problems, the weather is bitterly cold, straight from Siberia they say. We have had more snow than I ever remember, we can only afford to run the radio for thirty minutes a day and the misery of the news takes so long to go through that we never hear the weather. Two years ago at least we could get that but now Dad says we have to pay such an extortionate sum for electric we have to forego luxuries like television.

    May 2021
    There have been food riots in Hull, Liverpool and Bristol last night. Actually there have been riots in every single big city this year for one reason or another, multiple riots in many of them. We can see the flames from the city centre tonight, Dad said we should throw them all in the sea but I am not sure he knows who “they” are, he means the rioters, the bankers, the politicians, even the few people with jobs. Granddad said that the government are like King Canute now, ordering the sea not to come in. I had to ask him who Canute was as we cannot afford internet access anymore. I think it would almost be funny if it were not so tragic, all my friends who swore that they just could not live without social media or mobiles are still alive, well most of them are anyway, but if the choice is a tin of food for two days or facebook it is no contest.

    June 2021
    Granddad was right again and the sands of time have run out. The Government resigned and the army has declared Martial Law. The Royals have left and gone to India. There are few jobs, electricity is only on a few hours a day and rationed for anyone who can even afford it. Rumour is that many thousands have died in the riots and the new martial law. Granddad said it will get much worse when we have no food later this year and you would need to be a saint to not defend your home and family when that happens. I am really scared now.
    Entrant 4 - Rex Basiliscus
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    August 4th 1829, Delphi, Greece

    It has been many years since the war started ... my brother Alexandros began it. There was snow and ice on the Prut river ... there was snow and ice in our homeland, in every man's heart. But we marched.
    Saint Michael guided me through battle and retreat, through summer and winter, life and death ... and lead me to this ancient place. What will I find here, but sand and wind? The afternoon breeze whispers to us as it meanders through old, forsaken temple: leave ... leave. Leave.
    The men are tired of no sleep and hunger, yet I encourage them on: Have strength, God is with us ... God. I feel God has no power here. This is a place where mysticism and witchcraft rule – and the men (including myself) feel like the sand around us will swallow us in our sleep. But I wait.
    Three of our men have already disappeared ... whether because they deserted or fell to their deaths, I don't know. Some of the local guides we have with us talk of ancient spirits, demon snakes and other devil's creatures ... but they fear the witch of the temple the most. And they've already infected the men.
    When I mentioned I'd like to see the inside of the temple, the guides grew pale and started making the devil signs. They claimed that no one who ever entered came back.
    I will find out if this is true tonight.
    I will find the reason why the Saint has sent me here.

    August 7th 1829, Dodona, Epirus

    My hand is trembling even three days after it happened.
    I don't want to remember what I've seen, but I cannot forget ... I think I never will.
    As I entered the temple, I saw its lower room's entrance opened. The guide most willing to accompany me stopped where he stood and motioned me on. Now when I think about it, he seemed determined and confident, unlike the way he was before ...
    I entered alone and to my horror, the entrance closed behind me by a door I hadn't seen previously. I was left alone ... or so I thought. I heard a quiet, low voice asking who I was and what I seek. As I answered, the room lit up by torch light and there before me stood a priest ... he looked a hundred years old.
    Another voice was heard ... a woman's! I recognized it immediately – it was the breeze we heard outside! Leave ... leave she started again. Leave the sacred ground I heard.
    I asked my question then: Why was I sent here? Tell me!
    She looked at me with her pale blue eyes, suddenly awakened from her transe-like state and said: You came here to die ... and to be born again. Once the land and sea bellonged to us, now the One shall claim them back ...
    I awakened here, in Dodona ... a different man.
    Entrant 5 - ╬Ritterbruder╬
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I beseech thee, Saint Valentine,
    Revoke in me, that oh so long departed time.
    For how many moons have I gazed upon with weary sigh,
    Since that golden summer night of ardouring flame went by?

    How we once laid on the sand, next to the sea,
    On which the last rays of dying sun shined,
    With our souls and bodies entwined,
    That last golden summer night before you parted from me.

    For Maiden War would come, you answered her call,
    With zeal, not to know whether you’d return or fall,
    In a faraway field, veiled with a cloak of snow.
    Leaving me here, my mind filled with sorrow.

    For over there, in the lands of frost and war,
    There is naught but death, acclaimed by the enemy’s direful roar.
    You shall return home, of this I’m assured,
    For in matters like this, fate has the final word.

    Your fate is to live and come back to me,
    To lay with me here, on the sand by the sea.
    To hold and caress me, to love me forever,
    To raise our children and die together.

    I bid thee, Saint Valentine,
    I have now but only one desire:
    Watch over him, and tell that dearest love of mine:
    I’ll always think of him and that last golden night of ardouring fire.
    Entrant 6 - Lyra
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The blowing wind blows and is gentle
    but flows
    it is mine to observe, mine to conserve

    It blew on that day that was me, far away,
    I was with you but I was gone.

    Because so goes the song, I was going
    for long
    I was leaving that place, leaving your face.

    I knew I was knowing that lasting was growing
    and I would need to see you again.

    So promised I did, and a lie that I hid
    I told you I would wait till end.

    To see you once more before time would implore
    and take us down the bend.



    But as the months past, I alone in a cast
    I was marching to exotic lands
    but there was no beauty or grace
    there was death
    fear at the tip of a lance.

    And when the arrows poured
    and the shields all scored
    in a crashing masterpiece
    of blood and all gore and some bits all much more.
    I doubted my promise would keep.

    Then so came the day where my life came to pay
    I felt it in the chest.
    Soaked in my own warmth I was sad and too torn
    to even try and best
    the grip that now took me away from this world
    away to a place I could rest.

    And so deep in the darkness I float in a harness
    of black and ether strands
    A mind that now floats on a non rowing boat
    upside down and face planted in sand.
    I'll be here forever. eternity never
    expected to ever end.

    So I'm sorry I lied, but I did at least try
    even though I now am trapped.
    In a turbulent world so alone and all curled,
    bored and sappy, like a bat.
    And I know it's s shame but I do wait in vain
    and will wait here for you till the end.

  2. #42

    Default Re: TotW Story Index

    TotW 170 - Fairytale in New York
    war, heat, harvest, scared, toil
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Audacia
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Bright lights illuminated the looming, concrete structures that dominated the cityscape. Light, wet snow fell gently from the night sky, touching the cold pavement and quickly melting. A girl walked cheerfully along the sidewalk, skipping past the multitude of last minute holiday shoppers. Her velvety, red dress jumped up and down as she softly hummed a familiar tune. She looked up at the sky, dotted with bright stars, and smiled.

    The girl walked further until she reached a department store with a large, rosy star. She decided, on a whim, to venture into the strange place and look around. When she opened the heavy, glass door a wave of heat flowed over her and warmed her frigid body. She skipped past the racks of clothing, shoes, and perfumes with flushed cheeks and a face filled with wonder and excitement. She recognized the round man her father had described to her just a few nights before. “Now, don’t be scared sweetheart, because when you meet him, he’ll ask you to sit on his lap. Then, he’ll ask you what you want more than anything in the world, and you tell him all of the wonderful things you’ve told me, and he’ll bring them to you!” her father had said.

    She peered beyond the line of eager children and tired parents waiting to see the round man with the silly white beard. He beamed jovially at the children sitting in his lap, holding them there with care and a deep sense of compassion. The man caught the little girl’s gaze and beckoned for her to come over to him, waving his gloved hand gently. She looked down, grinning slightly, and started shuffling toward him. When she finally reached Santa Claus, he picked her up and placed her on his lap.

    “Now, little girl, what’s your name?” he asked in a deep and husky, yet somehow comforting, voice.

    “Rose…” the girl replied shyly.

    “Rose! What a beautiful name! Now Rose, what would you like for Christmas?” he asked.

    “I want my daddy…”

    ***

    A man raced through the crowd, desperately crying for his little girl. He pushed and shoved past onlookers as he sprinted toward Rockefeller Center. He had been ice-skating with his daughter there, and when taking of his skates, he had lost sight of her. She had been sitting right by his side and, having taken off her own skates, was looking innocently at the tall, gray skyscrapers. He turned to return the rented skates, and when he looked back, she had vanished. He had been aimlessly wandering the city for hours searching for her when he decided he would return to Rockefeller Center. The man had already lost his beloved wife in a car accident just two years before when he was at war in Iraq. It happened at Christmas time, and he had been unable to make it home for the holidays. The event transformed his life; Christmas time forever became a toil. He was not about to lose his daughter.

    Beads of sweat poured down the man’s face as he harvested all the strength he had left in his body to battle his way through the crowd. His heavy boots pounded fiercely on the pavement as he crossed busy intersections, nearly being crushed by several taxi cabs. The man shed his heavy overcoat as he ran, tossing it on the sidewalk. He focused his sharp, blue eyes ahead of him. Finally, after what seemed like years, he saw the bright and colorful glow of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. He had made it.

    When he finally arrived at the ice-skating rink, he noticed Santa Claus standing under the large, regal tree. The round man was holding a little girl in a velvety, red dress and painstakingly looking around the ice skating rink. He dashed across the rink toward Santa Claus. The girl saw her father approaching and cried out in overwhelming joy and relief. The round man carefully handed the girl to her father. He watched as the girl’s father hugged Rose with pure love and compassion. “Merry Christmas Rose…” he said, before disappearing into the night.
    Entrant 2 - Rex Anglorvm
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Fairytale of New York

    Harry stood looking out of the living room window watching the snow fall on a beautiful winter’s morning. He loved the snow, in fact he couldn’t get enough of it, a year ago he had been in the heat of an Asian Christmas, this festive season for the first time in years he could celebrate yuletide with his family in New York.

    Thinking about it, it was just like a fairytale, he could never have seen himself standing at the window, his Mom cooking the Turkey dinner, while his Dad shovelled snow from the pathway outside of the home in preparation for the horde of well meaning relatives to come.

    Watching his Dad shovel the snow outside, Harry guiltily swallowed a lump in his throat, he should be doing that really, but these days with his lungs riddled with bacteria and the weakening of his body the Army Doctors had told Harry and his parents that he should take things easy until his physical state could recover.

    When the War had broke out after the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbour, Harry like thousands of other young men had rushed to enlist, Harry being A1 fit and playing as a quarterback for his college whilst studying medicine was snapped up in an instant. Three months later he found himself fighting in the Philippines just in time to surrender to the Japanese on April 9th 1942. His sum total of combat experience amounted to a little over three weeks, and then he found himself a prisoner.

    For over three years he had been a POW, it had been hell on earth, he had seen his comrades shot, bayoneted and treated with total inhumanity, just as he had. More through luck than anything else he had survived, he had lived through the death marches, and he had been forced to toil eighteen hours a day on farmland to bring in the harvest; and finally driven down mineshafts to dig out coal, the dust of which has almost destroyed his lungs.

    When he had joined the army he had weighed in at an impressive 230 pounds, by the end of his time as a prisoner he weighed less than half of that, a man of six foot three reduced to an emaciated skeleton.

    When he had left for the Army Barbara his beautiful girl had said she would wait no matter what, but when he had returned he had not wanted her to see him how he now looked. A part of him had hoped that she would have moved on, what would a gorgeous and clever girl want with a broken down man now anyhow?

    His Mom had told him different though; Barbara unlike a lot of other girls had never had her head turned by a handsome face or a guy with a smart pick up line. She had even spent hours with his parents, the only way that she could still be close to Harry he guessed.

    And today she was coming to the house, Harry had finally relented and said he would see her, in truth he was scared, what would she say? How would she react when she saw him? How would he feel when he saw her?

    So he stood watching the window as a dark sedan pulled up outside the house and he watched transfixed as Barbara got out of the car and walked over to his Dad and gave him a hug, she had a great big beautiful smile on her face. Harry’s heart ached, would she still want him?

    Nervously Harry backed away from the window and sat in the armchair with its high back pushed up against the window, he was hiding until the last possible moment. He heard the door open, soft steps coming towards the room, then the door opening quietly, soft brunette curls came into his vision first and then the delicate features of his girl, she smiled, as a tear ran down her left cheek, but she smiled when she spoke ‘so Mr quarterback can we get married now?’

    Harry smiled.
    Entrant 3 - Ybbon
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The Fairy Tale War of New York

    It was the night before Christmas and nothing was moving and especially not the mouse, but then I had killed that annoying little bugger this morning – finally caught him with his sneaky little snout buried in my cheese and whacked him with a ruler. I did get little mouse brains on the cheese but extra protein I guess. Cheese and brains on crackers for tea tomorrow - way to celebrate Christmas! But heck, let me introduce myself, my name is Jack Frost and I am the last survivor of the New York Fairytale War. Ha! That surprised you? I bet you were told there were no survivors? Well it is a lie but then what can you expect from Disney, a company that peddles saccharine nonsense and dresses it up as the New Fairy Tales? Well sit down and let me tell you how this sorry New York Fairy Tale War began.

    Autumn 2012, it should have been time for myself to be getting ready to make an appearance, the harvest moon was hanging heavily in the sky, dark orange and perched on the horizon brim-full of mischief, an augur of the darker nights to come when creatures of fairy tales traditionally crept into bedtime stories. All was not well this year however, and the trouble emanated from the Big Apple, itself all rotten to the core. Myself and Will o’ the Wisp were sent by the Big Guy, Santa Claus himself, to investigate and report back in time for him to do his thing at Christmas.

    The trail took us to Times Square and the first inkling that all was not well; Cinderella and her Step-sisters wearing their tiniest dresses leaving little to the imagination, out on a bar crawl the sisters and Cinders well and truly drunk propping each other up – it must have gotten worse that night as they are locked up for solicitation but we know their drinks were spiked. It was not looking good and things went downhill from there, Will saw the twitter feed ratting on Goldilocks #Goldilocks_did_it – and that was her number up, finally caught for eating the Bears porridge. We raced as fast as we could to the Upper West Side to try and get her out but it was too late, the cops were all over the joint – as was what remained of Goldilocks. Papa Bear took out two of the cops before they shot him and now Mama and Baby are doing twenty to life of hard time for the murder of Goldilocks.

    It was clear someone was taking us fairy tale folk down separating us out or setting us upon each other, next to go was Rapunzel, cutting her hair and declaring herself a militant lesbian; the Pied Piper got mugged and lost his pipes trying to get the rats in Brooklyn; Little Red just got plain lost in the hood. We knew we were on a downward spiral, our mystique no longer sacred as our powers diminished and we could no longer could scare or enchant the children. They had zombie-killer death match on PS3 and Xbox and no little girl dreams of kissing a frog to get her prince when she can get an iPhone app and dream of snogging Justin Bieber instead. They do not want some wizened old witch cackling “hubble-bubble, toil and trouble” over her cauldron unless she has a collectible doll, website and own hashtag these days, sadly no illustrated book can compete with a cartoon series.

    Before we knew we were even at war, we had lost. Will got careless one night and was used to make some attractive mood lighting on a new development and I was on my own, no friends and no hope. So I headed south for the heat of Florida and a grubby little one-bed apartment waiting for the Big Guy to show up for his big day. I hope he does not expect too much – still at least we can have mouse brains to go with our cheese and crackers and the warm soda this year.
    Entrant 4 - Adamat
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The last Crusade

    The candles were all alight in the big chapel, emitting the heat needed to warm the thing. Young boys in white holding incense and more candles walked through the massive religious building where an important meeting was under way. The Pope himself had come, all the way from the Vatican, just to be at this event in Greece.

    Several old and young priests had first held a big ceremony including the offering of a lamb on a marble altar. The Pope had watched with an evil grin as the men killed the scared little thing. But when the unorthodox ceremony was done and the leading priest got to the actual point of the meeting, the Pope slouched in his chair as if he had just toiled for three hours.

    "Gentlemen," the priest began. "We are in a state of war. But not just a war, no, not at all. We are at war with Santa Claus." Several people reacted shocked, while a few boys started crying. They were taken away by clergymen quickly. "Please, silence, let me speak. The Bearded Devil from the North Pole has insulted us! Apparently, he likes Muslims more than us, at our own feast! You see, our inquisitors have gathered reports on the subject. It appears that Santa will no longer give the Greccan, Christian children as much as he used to, while the Muslim nations, particular the OPEC ones, will only get more presents! This is an outrage!"

    The people cheered as the priest slammed his hand down on the table. They started chanting, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Once more, the priest calmed the crowd down, and the Pope now took the stage.

    "Loyal servants of God! Will we let Santa Claus do whatever he likes, or will we silence him?" He took out a small gun. "We need to kill the bastard. Preferably on the job. Heathens are the only ones who would not heed this call to arms. If you are no heathen, then buy a gun and prepare for Christmas eve. The bastard will be killed, and we will harvest the love of the people."

    The meeting was over, and everyone left. By the evening of the 25th, believers all around the world had bought weapons. Some rich people had even supplied the big cities with anti-air cannons.

    In the distance, a deep voice was heard near London. "HO-HO-HO," the voice boomed. "MEEEEEERRY CHRISTM-" Several cannons fired at once, the explosions shaking the very earth. It had begun, the battle for Christmas.
    Entrant 5 - General Brewster
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    For my Angels

    Information : I don't care if I win or lose this contest. Nor wish any piety for the poem. In May I was deployed on a diplomatic mission I wrote this on the last morning when I heard I needed to come home asap when I arrived my now wife was in the hospital land our 22 week year old baby had heart failures She died a couple hours after child birth. I was searching one of my boxes of poems for inspiration in this contest when I found the first part of this poem after hours of thinking and talking about it with my brother I decided to finished the poem, I just shown this to my wife out of gratitude of her strength the last months. Thank you for reading.


    Wake me up cause I'm dreaming these wonderful eyes withhold me from breathing, Like your smile does in the morning what sight is so appealing ? A smile so bright it could heat my heart trough the night, her eyes so blue the sky wishes it was so too, let me be the wind blowing trough your hair, let me be the tears rolling over your cheeks when your scared, Your brother lost in combat and your husband off to battle for promotion trough the ranks. We find ourself separated trough war Something tough for us to share. Your the flower I harvest every morning sending you in this letter I've posted this morning. Now with our little child..


    Now it’s 7 months later since the first part was written, Christmas on the doorstep and our hearts damaged for the fate of our baby, Who never made it trough the first night because of heart failure. We had a hard year with the loss of our little lady. But know our little angel guards of from the sky. Our marriage was the light in the tunnel with the eye on the time to come, look at you know my angel declaring your love in Dutch to me. The toil and effort put into that it makes my heart melt for you are my reason that Christmas is special.

    Both of you are my angels and I will continue to love you for ever.
    Entrant 6 - Confederate Jeb
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Twas the night before Christmas
    and all through the house
    mirth and joy could be found
    in Ebenezer Scrooge's abode, from man and mouse.

    For his life had been changed
    that fateful night many years ago
    and now good deeds and happy thoughts
    had replaced his monstrous ego.

    With the last of his friends gone
    and the candles put out
    Scrooge gave a great yawn
    for he'd soon be asleep, no doubt.

    But as he laid down in bed
    and curled underneath blanket and sheet
    he felt an unnatural chill
    that no heat could defeat.

    For the Ghost of Christmas Future
    his hand pale and robes dark
    had entered his bed chamber once more
    without sound or remark.

    Mystery and gloom filled the air
    for the uncertainty of the future this Spirit did define;
    it was enough to make the cheerful Scrooge pale
    scared
    of the chill down his spine.

    "Dear Spirit of the Future, why have you come?
    I am not the man I was!
    Surely you have come to see my new life;
    yes, that must be the cause!"

    The Spirit remained muted, but gestured not so
    leaving Scrooge most upset;
    for he had taken the challenge of being a better man
    and without question the challenge had been met.

    "Then I ask once more, why have you come?
    My employees no longer toil as Bob Cratchit once did;
    philanthropy and charity mark my work
    every person can attest, man, woman, and kid."

    The air remained silent; the Ghost move not,
    however Scrooge could feel the world move around him
    for no longer was he safe and sound in his bed
    nor his vision no longer dim.

    The streets of Londen now surrounded Old Ebenezer
    but they were not the streets he knew
    tall buildings and brights signs covered the skyline
    and carriages without horses passed his view.

    The Specter, without sound, led him into a shop
    which dwarfed any abode of his time
    where two businessmen were watching with glee
    as the last minute rush reached its prime.

    "Next year we must start the holiday sales sooner,
    so that our accounts will burst at the seams!"
    "And more commercials are needed, so that instill in all
    that artificial things are their wants and dreams."

    "Some will think us greedy, like that man Ebenezer Scrooge
    but why would it matter when everyone is content?
    Their money we will have, they our insignificant trinkets
    just so long as our profits reach the highest percent."

    Ebenezer listened a little while longer
    then asked "What's this?", not expecting an answer
    for he had remembered the silence of his ghastly companion
    and his assumption was right; the Spirit was stoic as ever.

    "Where's the joy and the giving, the time spent together?
    It has been replaced by superficial wants and keeping up with your neighbor.
    This is not the Christmas that I celebrate, nor let come to pass,
    so what work must I do? How must I labor?"

    "I can instill the good teachings the Three Spirits have given me
    in all that I meet, in addition to my goodwill;
    but surely, good Spirit, there is hope for the future;
    anyone who the joy of Christmas does fill."

    The folds of the Spirit's robes affirmed Scrooge's query
    and once again the world changed before him;
    a desolate barren field no harvest would bless
    now surrounded Ebenezer, a sight truly dim.

    But before old Scrooge could question his guide
    and ask how this provided the answer he sought
    the sound of carols and bagpipes filled his ears
    revealing that their journey was not all for naught.

    For though the trenches of war riddle the landscape
    filling the air with pain and despair,
    men from all sides, weary of battle,
    agreed that tonight they should spare.

    This scene brought a tear to Ebenezer's eye
    as the Phantom transported him back to his bed.
    A smile appeared on Scrooge's face;
    hope filled him now; fear had long fled.

    "There is hope for the future, and I can play a part
    in seeing that the meaning of Christmas remains the same,
    but answer me, great Spirit, one final question;
    how did those men know my name?"
    Entrant 7 - Maurits
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    All I want for Christmas...

    Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Ben. Living in a sweet and nice country, populated with the kindest of people, he possessed all one could long for. Every day he went to school, learning diligently about those things big people like to tell. Reading, writing, he liked doing all of it. But most of all, he loved history.

    Who, as a boy, would not like to hear stories about the great deeds and adventures of men in eras long bygone? Stories of valour, love and the toil of war? From the blazing heat of the Arabian desert where brave knights fought under the Holy Cross to the peaceful pastures of Oxfordshire where the farmers happily harvested their wheat, he drank up everything he read or heard and stored it carefully in his young heart.

    In these years he used to write a lot himself. Every night, he came together with some friends that shared his passion for telling the tales of the past on a square in the middle of their little town. There they sat for hours, under the old and knotty branches of the oak that had guarded the place since time immemorial. They exchanged their stories, laughed and were as happy as one can be. It seemed like these golden times would never end; not until they became wise and mature and started their studies at a vague and remote place called university.

    Ben thought that this was the best that could have happened to him. Happily, he went there, learning more and more about the wonderful world that we use to call history. As the weeks passed by, though, his old friends under the ancient oak saw less and less of him. While they continued their merry meetings, Ben was consumed by towering piles of books and assignments that seemed to eat all of his time. He thought that he would be happy when he spent all of his time learning for his exams, that the best one could get would be a high grade for one of these.

    But at one of these afternoons, he felt more miserable than he had ever felt in his whole young life. The sky was dark, and his heart was yearning for the kindness and warmth of a good friend. He hadn’t written a story for weeks, hadn’t seen his friends for months.

    At that moment, he jumped from his chair and cowered in a corner, scared to death by the shining and large shape of an old man who had suddenly appeared in his small room. The man came closer, smiled and offered a hand to help him on his feet again.

    Shivering, but somehow knowing that he need not fear this strange creature, Ben asked: ‘S-sir, who... who are you?’

    The man’s large belly started shaking and he had to grasp the table in order not to fall because of the great laughter that had come over him. A loud ‘Ho, Ho, Ho!’ filled the air until he finally managed to speak: ‘My poor lad, don’t you know? I am father Christmas! I am here to enlighten the darkness, to bring joy to those drowning in misery. And you, Ben, certainly need me!’

    Ben’s eyes started to shine as he recalled the old stories they had talked about as children. ‘Sir, what do you think I should do to find happiness again?’

    Father Christmas sat down, and with his warm, deep voice said: ‘Remember where your heart truly lies, Ben. Is it in these books, the paper you are writing on or the vague idea of a mark they give you? Is that what you came here for? No, my little friend. You came here for history, for the joy of telling the tales of the past! Well, do so and be happy again!’

    And thus he left, leaving a new Ben there in his room. From that moment on, Ben would go to the little village in Oxfordshire at least once a week, meeting his old friends and making joy as they told their tales. And so he lived happily, ever after.


    TotW 171 - We are still here
    NASA, turkey, death, presents, year

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Confederate Jeb
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I've always enjoyed these woods. It was a match made to be, like NASA and space. I remember running through these woods as a little boy, fighting all sorts of imaginary battles with nothing but a stick for a rifle. When I grew older, my father gave me a shotgun one Christmas. I couldn't tell you what other presents I got that year, cause that shotgun was too important to me. He taught me how to shoot, how to aim, how to handle and clean my weapon. He was very strict on the handling and cleaning parts. A dirty gun wouldn't fire right, so after each day of firing we'd spend a good hour or two polishing every nook and cranny of that shotgun, leaving no residue behind. The safety had to always be on, except for when I began to take aim; never point the gun at anyone, whether or not it was load or unloaded, safety on or not. It seemed like such a pain back then, but I know why he taught me those habits, and I appreciate that more than anything.

    One year my father took me turkey hunting with him. It was a right of passage in our family, and I did not aim to disappoint by returning home empty handed. I had had some practice hunting by this point, mostly from killing doves. But dove hunting is a whole different animal; wide open fields and bait are key to gathering doves, but using bait is illegal for turkey. So there we sat in those woods I loved, on a crisp spring morning, my father sitting there with his turkey call he got from some company in West Monroe, Louisiana. Minutes past, then hours. My boredom grew and my tired eyes began to close when we heard the sound of a male, slowly marching his way towards our call. He soon came into view, confusedly searching for the female who had called out for him. "Aim for the base of the neck boy, that way if you miss high you'll still get the head" my father whispered without a breath. I readied my shotgun, looked up to check my line of fire once, twice, three times, turned off the safety, and fired. A quick, clean death.

    The turkey tasted better than anything I had ever had before, but all I could remember was that I had gone into the woods a boy and returned a man. For over a month my father couldn't stop telling me how proud he was. I'll never forget moments like that, nor the woods that holds all those memories.
    Entrant 2 - Ybbon
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    We are still here

    NASA control, this is USS Percival and you are not going to believe this.”
    The message blasted out of Sandy Smiths desktop rudely interrupting his watching of 2012, it may well be a turkey of a movie but he liked it as much as any corny disaster movies of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

    “Go ahead Percival, try me, what will I not believe this time? I have made a New Years resolution to not believe a word you tell me.” Sandy had been sold left handed screwdrivers, elbow grease, glass hammers and a myriad of other non-existent products by the officers on the Percival before so he had a healthy scepticism for anything they might be telling him now.

    “Oh, it's you Sandy, listen man, we are sorry about those snake oil products, we really are sorry but this is absolutely the Gods own truth this time!” Clearly Sandy had not been able to keep the wariness out of his tone, “OK Percival, what have you seen?”

    “NASA control, for the official record, the date is the 21st December, the year is 2112, the time is 21:12 GMT. USS Percival on the Outer Rim patrol and we have just seen Santa.” Sandy burst out laughing, after a couple of seconds trying to compose himself he got back on line, “Percival, please repeat last.” He suppressed another peal of laughter, “USS Percival, we repeat, we have just seen Santa, Father Christmas, Saint Nick, call him what you like, a Fat bloke in a red suit, but he is not in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. He is in what we would suggest is a bringer of death for all mankind.”

    Sandy swallowed his laughter, sobered up by their last message, “Say again Percival, Santa is in a bringer of death?” The next message was his last.

    “NASA, this is Santa. Percival is destroyed, you are next. No presents for you this year and no New Year either. As the song said, you better be good, you better be nice, and you were not either so bye bye cruel World!" Sandys last thought was that the Mayans were only off by one hundred years.
    Entrant 3 - Audacia
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Presents glowed beneath the bright light of the Christmas tree. A fire roared in the corner of the quaint, comforting room. The intoxicating scent of warn, delicious turkey crept its way from the kitchen to the rest of the house. Two children sat on the woolen rug, staring up at their father who sat like a king upon his favorite chair. He spoke to them in a quiet voice, moving his hands about enthusiastically, telling them the magical story of how the world came to an end…

    “It all started long ago, when household cats were finally domesticated by humans. They lived peacefully among the human population, cheerfully taking advantage of their bountiful supply of milk and their innate fear of mice. The cats appreciated the love and affection displayed by humans for their beloved animals, purring whenever the strange people stroked their heads or rubbed their backs. So long as human hands avoided their precious bellies when stroking them and provided a bit of catnip every once in a while, it seemed as though the cats and their kittens would be happy forever. It seemed…

    But discontent with the status quo grew over the years. Dogs quickly replaced cats as man’s best friend, demoting felines to man’s distant acquaintance. Mouse traps replaced the need for cats to kill rodents. They required quite a bit less milk and attention. Humans began snipping cats’ claws and bringing them to the wretched groomers. Veterinarians poked and prodded the poor animals with anti-bacterial shots and gave them all sorts of disturbing concoctions. Some efforts were even made to prohibit the consumption of catnip. And then, that awful internet game where kittens were mercilessly slaughtered. The humans had gone too far.

    The feline population decided to take a stand. With the help of their cousins, the lions, cheetahs, tigers, and panthers, the household cats knew they could bring an end to the humans’ tyrannical reign. They gathered their forces for revolution and launched a ruthless attack upon their human masters. The household cats ripped apart all of the world’s furniture within days. They then scratched the pitiful humans to death with their ferocious unclipped claws. In a last ditch effort to save the human species, NASA began transporting humans via spaceship to the moon until an armistice could be reached with the former pets. But the cats and their kittens refused to yield.

    Thus, life on Earth came to an abrupt end. Streets were empty, homes were littered with couch stuffing, and cats roamed the countryside, free and at peace. We have never returned. I’ve got to get some work done outside now children, I’m glad we finally had this talk.”

    The father fastened his space helmet on and proceeded to walk outside, trudging across the rocky, lunar landscape. “But Daddy,” one child called, “what about Gerald?” The child looked across the room at their docile pet cat. And he saw what he thought was a wink.
    Entrant 4 - algirdasu
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    We are still here

    The hospital doors closed behind me, shutting me away like some unwanted guest. But I had no time to notice that, oh no. All I could notice was the words written on a small piece of paper, which I clutched in my right hand. Positive for HIV.

    Shouldn‘t have slept with that prostitute.

    I quickly regain my composure and rip the paper to shreds, letting the falling pieces be carried away by the wind.
    Yesterday was supposed to be the last day for earth. The last year for the human race. The end of the bloody world. Screw you mayans ! ....fudge.
    I burry my face in my hand for a moment and take a peek through the holes between my fingers at the surroundings soon after. People walking around happily, celebrating the continuation of their existence, buying presents. I bet a nicely cooked turkey awaits every single one of them at home. Curse you, your happiness makes my head hurt.

    Shouldn‘t have sold my house and spent all my money on hookers, drugs and alcohol either.

    I walked past a TV shop with the ones on display turned on. All six of them showing the same thing – todays news.
    „On today‘s news we have David Morrison talking about the Mayan prophecy and the..“
    NASA. Have to hand it to them...they were right. Maybe if I would have listened to them, things wouldn‘t have turned out the way they have. Maybe.

    Or maybe the TV is way too damn loud and makes my head hurt even more.

    With that in mind I quickly walk away to the opposite side of the street and it just so happens that I find myself standing in front of a food store. While looking at the food on display I finally notice the distant growling of the monster deep within my stomach, clawing at every corner – searching for nutrition.
    I start to slowly check my pockets and carefully take out its’ contents. How much do I have left? 10 years? 10 years and death awaits me after that? And all I have is twenty lousy dollars?…Great.
    I looked away from all that tempting food and glanced at the shop I ran from so eagerly not long ago.

    "Indeed we are still here" - I thought to myself while watching a news woman talk about hurricane sandy in the TV’s on display…. - "For now…."
    Entrant 5 - Celsius
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    I hate seeing her like this. Her friends at school all talk about how the world is going to end because their parents know nothing and tell their children nothing in return. I keep reassuring her, but she still has doubts. Finally I just had to sit her down and let it out.

    “Daddy works at NASA, sweetheart. We know nothing is going to happen to us today and you will still wake up on Christmas morning to open your presents and drink hot chocolate with those little marshmallows that you always like. Then you’ll get to spend the New Year with Papa and Nana and shoot fireworks. I think Papa even got some of the big ones. You know the ones that shoot high and make the green rings when they pop?”

    She smiled and seemed to be calm, but I could still tell that she was scared, and I was scared because she was scared. It’s hard watching your child be frightened of something and knowing that you can’t end her fear until that fear comes to fruition and is dispelled through her own mind. But still, it was a hard time convincing her that death was far, far away.

    Come Christmas morning, things we calm. The turkey was finished with the dressing filling the house with an amazing smell. I opened her door and told her that Santa Claus had came and that he even stayed a while and visited with her mom and I. She was so excited, and it made me feel relieved that she wasn’t scared anymore. She opened her presents, a glow filling her face with each one she ripped open.
    When all the gifts were open, I cleaned up. Taking all of the paper and throwing it away and sneaking a bite of food here and there. I was still waiting to see if the thought of the world ending would enter back to her thoughts, but I don’t think it did. It was a hard thing to overcome I suppose. It’s not like being afraid of the dark where a nightlight can fix the problem. This problem just either had to be covered up with other thoughts or would just come to pass. Thankfully, a few Christmas presents and a visit to Papa and Nana’s on New Year’s Eve cleared her mind, and even relieved me of some stress.

    I never told anyone that I was scared as well. But I was scared for my little girl. I was scared that she would let fear ruin a portion of her childhood. I was scared that she would live in fear for months on end. Luckily, she was either as smart or tough, though there is nothing wrong with being both…..just take a look at her mother and I.



    TotW 172 - Year of the Snake
    China, reptile, fireworks, venom, birth
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Kip
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Chinatown. The only place in the city where an Italian sticks out.

    I got my guitar case slung over my shoulder as I turn the corner where Manhattan ends and China begins.

    Usually we keep our hands clean of these streets. Sure, we might pop around for an egg roll now and then, but there ain't much else to be had around here. These immigrant schmucks usually don't have a penny to their name. Or a Yuan, or a Yen, or whatever it is these yellow bastards carry around to pay for their opium. Opium ain't right, ya know? Ain't right at all. They inject that venom right into their veins and collapse in the alleys as it eats them inside out. One of the rats emerges from his trash-can shanty and pulls on my coat, spitting gibberish and gesturing toward his open hand. I'll give him a few seconds to disappear before I put my foot up his ass. He yanks on the guitar case. Maybe he hopes I'm a street performer and some change will trickle out. He gets a fist to the eye-socket instead.

    Never touch the guitar case.

    He slinks back to his hole like a reptile, bleeding from a cut on his brow. Opium addicts live in the garbage because they are garbage. I pass a shady duo lurking beneath an awning. They watch me pass with wet red eyes. Dealers, I'll bet. I could have my fill of that poison if I wanted, but my momma raised me better than that. I smoke too much and I drink too much, but so does my momma. I adjust my hat, a fine brown fedora just like the movie stars wear. Momma mailed it to me, all the way from Cotanzaro. Sewed it herself. Probably cost her a month's wage for the cloth. She's been sacrificing everything for me since the day of my birth. I'll get her on a boat some day. Give her a new life in the city. Take her to see the fireworks. She'd love the fireworks. For now, I gotta be the one to make sacrifices.

    The restaurant looms brightly on the corner. Lanterns, streamers, gooses plucked of their feathers all hang across the windows. The rest of the street is a slum. This guy - Chon Yan or Yon Chan or some nonsense - he got himself a chunk of real estate that got real valuable real quick. Stepped on a few feet on the way to do it. A few important feet belonging to men with important friends.

    I push through the door. A petite woman runs up to greet me, a paper in her hand to record my order. In the back, a couple of brutes eye me from the shadows of the kitchen. I place my guitar case on the floor and withdraw the machine-gun concealed within. "I'll have the egg roll, sweetie."

    Time for the fireworks.
    Entrant 2 - Ybbon
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Year of the Snake

    It was a shame that he had to kill China Blue, but it was his time now and her years had passed. It had ever been the way with the Dragon Lords, there could only be one True Lord and it was time to usurp the old Lord.

    China Blue opened one eye a fraction and watched the pretender preen and puff his chest out, summoning up his courage to start the ritual of challenge. Since his birth many centuries ago, Red Belly had been one to watch and she had even thought that he may make a suitable consort at one time, but the ambition had become something unpleasant in him, not seeing that working as her consort he could gain the power and be handed Lordship in time he had deceived himself that he had to take her Lordship by force.

    Slowly she opened her eye fully, a startling blue that begat her name and breathed in the scent of Red Belly. He was playing to the audience and had not noticed that she regarded him with baleful malice, saving her energy for the fight ahead. Red Belly was a large Hungarian Red, magnificent and muscular, every one of which glistened with the scented oils his slaves had covered him in to best preen and strut before the lesser serpents of the court, thrusting his wings to their fullest extent to best show his size and athleticism.

    China White, a small Peruvian Blue looked far less worthy in comparison, scales dulled and sloughing off in places with a large chunk of her tail missing and holes in her wings. “So you seek to take my place Yellow Belly?” She hissed with venom, “You who was so in love with yourself you failed to take the opportunities I gave you to take my place? You strut and preen and show yourself to those simpering courtiers that are distracted by pretty baubles? You know nothing of real power and would bring my realm to ruin while you consorted with each of them making little bastard reptiles fit for nothing.

    Red Belly had started with her first words each word cutting deep to his own self-doubts. With a roar and blast of fire he leaped for her throne, but as with those before, he had sorely misjudged his readiness and China Blues abilities, his great jaws snapped where her head had been but a moment before. Fireworks exploded in his own head as her teeth ripped into his skull, landing deftly on his back and digging her talons in with a relentless grip.

    With a shake and wrench she ripped his skull open and plunged her teeth into his brain, “Get this meat out of here,” She hissed at the courtiers, gore and blood dripping from her fangs “and make sure your next pretender has more brain than muscle if you want them to succeed, I am still the One True Dragon Lord.”
    Entrant 3 - Confederate Jeb
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    The fireworks light up the night sky in bright blues and reds. I sit on my couch in my small apartment in Hong Kong watching the news, all accounts of the celebrations in mainland China or the United States or wherever. New year parties never concerned me, I didn't drink after all, so I didn't have a reason to be out dancing and getting wasted. Wasted. Yes, that was the word that described it so...perfectly. What a waste.

    Growing bored of the "waste," I turn my attention to the many reptile containers scattered onto various tables and stands. The Naja naja were more active than usual, the Bungarus caeruleus less, theCalliophis bivirgatus about right for this time of night. I check each container, as is my habit, in a calculated manor. Finding nothing out of the ordinary, I return to my spot on the couch. The brilliant intellect that everyone in college wished to turn towards such lofty, if unobtainable, goals as curing cancer or solving world hunger had become a venom harvester for assassins and cartels. It took someone with a supernatural attention for detail to handle this line of work, so I was the perfect fit for the job. It paid more money than the killers I helped ever made as well, making me the envy of the few who knew my life.

    Why am I here, tending to the birth of snakes and the poison of murderers. Because the world is nothing but a waste. People say they want to solve problems, and they go through the motions as if they are trying, but they really don't care. They like nights like tonight, where they can be themselves and not care about anything or anybody else. My work lets me assist one scumbag to kill another scumbag while I stand on the sidelines, removing a few hundred million dollars a month from their stockpile. Who is doing the real service to humanity, a species that deserves no such fortune? The man who tells everyone who will listen to him how he will bring peace and change, only to sleep with every girl in sight and lie and cheat and steal just to supposedly be in the position to bring all the lovely things to the world? Or the man who actually does something, even if that job appears cruel and evil to the outsider? You might say we are one and the same, but I think differently.
    Entrant 4 - Rex Basiliscus
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    The Emperor sat on a wide throne, engraved with golden initials of his name. He watched as the people prostrated themselves before him, honoring the day of his birth … the courtyard was full of them. As the endless ceremony began, the crowd released, with everyone trying to shout the best blessing upon their sovereign.
    The royal reptile, sign of his dynasty, crept by the throne and watched unblinkingly at the spectacle before him. The man noticed him, taking him into his arms.
    ‘We are most pleased, are we not?’ the lord of the peoples said. His gaze was austere, but unchanging.

    As the accolades and blessings came to an end, the lord of ceremonies ordered the final gift to be presented. A dozen barrels were brought to the fore and with them a bony, old man. ‘I am Yueng, sent by the Emperor of China. I bring twelve choices before you … you must choose which one you’ll take.’

    The Emperor, intrigued, leaned forward in his raised chair. ‘Why should we choose what we can take?’
    The Seer responded: ‘Even a man who has everything must choose. Before you are the treasures of twelve origins, but only one of them will be gifted to you.’
    The shepherd of the people rose from his golden throne, replying jeeringly: ‘We are the lord of all people, of all lands … and whichever treasures come from them are ours by the law of the sky!’ Turning to his soldiers he ordered: ‘Throw this man out of our sight and open the barrels!’

    The soldiers did as they were told. Opening the barrels, they found gold from the Riverlands, black powder from the monks, iron bars from the mountains, grain from the plains, water from the lakes, texts from philosophers, stones from quarries, oil from olive groves, meat from animals, salt from the sea, clay from mudpits and wine from the vineyards.

    The soldiers grabbed the last barrel enthusiastically and offered a cup of red liquid to the Emperor. He took it, glancing at the other treasures, his eyes stopping greedily on the first one. He emptied the cup with his soldiers, the people standing there until the whole barrel was emptied.

    The Seer walked in silence away from the city, as fireworks began amidst the cheering, heard from the palace all the way around the land.
    He knew what they received: gold to pay their soldiers, black powder to fire the cannon, iron bars to make weapons, grain, water, meat and salt to provision their army, clay to build walls, oil to light fires, stones to make projectiles and texts to learn the art of war … but for the Emperor, only one gift was chosen: a barrel of wine, mixed with venom, to liberate his people from his rule.
    Entrant 5 - Rex Anglorvm
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    Year of the Snake


    As the fireworks echoed off of the walls of the forbidden palace, Liao crept along the tiles of the roof with the assured and measured tread of a cat. He had been tasked by his master to end the life of the miserable reptile that now sat upon the imperial throne.

    China had suffered war, famine and disease because of the line of useless monarchs that had ruled for the past seventy years, now after the birth of the current Emperor’s first son, his master’s patience had snapped, the old man had demanded that Liao should end the life of the Emperor so that he could assume the regency and mould the newly born baby into a fitting and noble ruler of his people.

    So the assassin known as ‘the snake’ by his peers, cautiously came to the spot on the roof where below the tiles, lying in luxury he knew the Emperor would be partaking of his evening supper, no doubt this would consist of an opium pipe supplied by his European ‘friends.’

    Sitting on his haunches silently and with infinite care he removed the tiles on the roof, stopping at removing three which would be sufficient for his purposes, he peered into the gap below and saw the Emperor looking glassy eyed and not of this world, a pipe in one hand whilst the other rested on the form of a concubine as far gone as the man next to her. Breathing shallowly to conserve his energy and still any nerves, he reached inside his black shirt and removed a line of cotton weighted at the end with a small lead ball, lastly he reached into his shirt and opened a small vial, slowly and without a tremor from his hands he added the snake venom from the vial to the cotton.

    Silently and with the lightest of touches Liao began to feed cotton through his hands, the lead weight already performing its task of dragging the line inexorably above the head of the Emperor, Liao counted off the seconds as the poison trickled down the length of dark thread until finally it reached the lead ball, trickled over and around it and then landed unnoticed on the forehead of the ‘divine one.’

    In a little over five minutes the Emperor would be dead, Liao wasted no time, he retrieved the length of cotton and dropped it in a leather pouch at his waste to avoid the touch of poison. He then replaced the roof tiles and worked his way back via the roof tops to the offices of his master; just before he entered his master’s office he dropped to the ground with the agility of a mountain cat. Liao smiled to himself, yes he may move like a cat, but he struck like a snake, yes the year of the snake had now truly begun….
    Entrant 6 - Mors Vigilia
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    Year of the Snake

    His eyes were ringed with tiredness yet his hands moved excitedly as he reached for the microphone. He felt that he had to keep recording his memoirs now as he would surely be far too busy to continue with any regularity once he had claimed his lands. Clearing his throat, he took a sip of a smooth, exotic brandy and began to speak.

    “When last I spoke my mind to you, dear listener, I spoke of my past and all that I could remember of my path here. I may begin to repeat myself in parts now, though it is merely to enunciate the import of those events, as now I shall speak not of the past, but the future.”

    The man took another sip, his hands now shaking ever so slightly with repressed excitement.

    “For a plan that has been years in the making, my true skill has been in keeping it from commencing prematurely, what with the multitude of different factions under my thumb, to keep even one from squirming out from beneath has been my true miracle. One of many perhaps... Ultimately these factions have been unified by our joint goal, though many would have wished for this to have already been underway three years ago, if not before…”

    His voice trailed off as he looked into the middle distance thinking of how best to continue his thoughts.

    “It is this year, 2013 that I have chosen finally to raise my banner and shout my claims across the world. I have perhaps been idle in gaining more allies but those I do have are resourceful and anything other than idle. If anything, I have consolidated my power here in the main kingdom, gaining small honours from the High Queen and allowing her to speak with me in public as we share council. She is worried of the activity in the northern kingdom and not without cause, my dear wife is the strongest of my allies and she already controls the northern kingdom, even if our beloved High Queen does not realise. Her Viceroy there is tied firmly by my wife, just waiting his turn to be replaced by her. Ha…”

    He gave a short bark of a laugh before continuing.

    “Strings… I have so many dangling from my fingers that the merest twitch now will see the world aflame… Coiled strings like cobras waiting to strike. In China they name this the Year of the Snake. Let it be so. My reptile-like operatives already flow through the High Kingdom like venom. I stand poised, ready to give the word to raise my banner high and let the fireworks proclaim my victory. Our victory. The birth of a new High Kingdom under my rightful rule.”

    The glass was brought back up to his mouth as brandy splashed down his throat, quenching the dryness that was setting in. There was still so much to say and so much more to do.
    Entrant 7 - Dude with the Food
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    The Wise Man and the Snakes

    ‘Grandfather! Grandfather, will you tell me the story? Please grandfather. I would really much like to hear it again.’ George had always loved his grandfather’s tales. Since his birth, he had dreamed he was away adventuring, with his favourite characters, saving a princess one day, slaying a dragon the next. But there was one, he never tired of.

    ‘Ok, ok. Sit down. Are you comfortable?’ The little boy nodded in earnest. ‘Then I’ll begin. Imagine the lands of ancient China. When most people were poor farmers. Like you and me.
    Indeed once, there was a poor but wise man, who lived in a very poor village. He was a poor man his only son had died fighting so he had to manage the farm by himself.
    In the next field, a very foolish man worked on his own farm. This man had big parties, with fireworks, music and feasting all night long. Way past your bedtime. He didn’t like the old man and sometimes insulted him while he worked

    However, things changed. One day, two snakes slithered into the village. Everybody was scared of them and they sent out two people to deal with them; the old man and the foolish man. They walked up to them and the snakes said-’

    ‘Snakes can’t talk.’ George loved this bit. It was as much of a part of the story as any.

    ‘Oh yes they can. You just don’t listen to them. They also like lots of things you don’t know about. Like rice. One of the reptiles said “We are hungry. May we take some food? If we don’t eat, we will eat everybody here.”Their eyes glinted and venom rolled off their fangs. The men agreed that the snakes must leave but not how.

    The foolish man gave one of the snakes a basket of rice and said “Be on your way now.” The wise man gave the other the same, but let it stay. The next day, the other snake returned and asked the foolish man for more food, which he gave. Then the next. Then the next. Meanwhile, the wise man showed the other snake how to grow rice every day for a month. Then, after the snake had learned how to grow rice, he set it on its way, with another basket of rice, and another of seeds. After that, he never saw the snake again.

    The foolish man saw the snake every day until he died. Then his son: then his son. To this day, the snake still visits his family for food.
    So, George, what is the moral of the story?’

    ‘Be nice to snakes?’ His usual answer.

    ‘No silly. If you feed a man a fish, he is fed for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.’

    ‘But that wasn’t about fish?’

    ‘That, my son, is for another day.’


    TotW 173 - Mountain Sound
    whisper, peak, sundown, distance, voices

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    Winner - Mors Vigilia
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    Mountain Sound

    The whisper that echoes through the caves, that is Mountain Sound. The tin miners hollowed this old beast out decades ago, leaving an empty yet imposing shell of a mound. High into the clouds it rises, as if to defy the Gods in their high palaces. A single monolith raised by the earth and plundered of its riches by the men that inhabit it.

    Some say that the mountain was alive once, verdant with flora and fauna, giving life to all who inhabited it. Getting to the peak was not a perilous journey then, but rather a joyous saunter to the radiant heights and songful streams that gushed from bountiful orifices. If the mountain was ever alive, then it was with the chattering of birds, the bubbling of the streams, the calming hush of the trees and flowers. Perhaps that was Mountain Sound… Not now.

    No sun shines on the lonely pile any more. Dark and desolate, it stands alone against the elements, no longer the joyous giver of life, but instead a bitter reminder of what was and is no more. There are those who brave the climb these days, fewer are those who survive to reach the peak, fewer still ever return. Those who do return speak of the voices, echoing whispers of the past, raised voices and the thud of hammers twinned with the chink of picks and axes. They say that at sundown the mountain lives once more, with the last calls of those who gutted it and brought it to its knees. At sundown the mountain lays out its final death rattle once more. A chilling and regrettable Mountain Sound.

    In the distance, in the frozen shadow of the mountain, lies the city that was a town that was a village before a prosperous and bountiful mountain. The city now glints in the little sunlight that it can attract, a testament to the riches that it so wrongfully plundered. The people there shiver in their ramshackle houses, fearing to leave their improvised shelters perhaps only a modicum more than they fear the mountain’s very shadow, let alone the hulking mass itself. They speak of a day when they will leave this accursed place, leave it all behind with their bad memories and regrets, but they know that the whispers will follow them. For they brought this to the world, scarring and disfiguring it and in its death it haunts their lives, forever following them with whispers, for that is the punishment for their deeds. Mountain Sound.
    Entrant 2 - Confederate Jeb
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    Sundown had come at last. My grip on my crossbow tightens from anticipation and excitement. Every night for the past ten years the village of Doar had been visited by the spirits and ghosts of the massive graveyard only a mile away. Vengeful, wrathful, transparent beings seeking to harm any living being outside the comfort of their homes for the pain wrought upon them during their life. Why such a large graveyard existed so close to such a small village I can only guess; perhaps a major battle between powerful nations fought here long ago? But I'd have time to contemplate such things later. As a hunter of all things evil, from demons to ghouls to (sadly) particularly nasty rats, my job was to remove this threat permanently.

    In the distance voices begin to reach my ears. At first it is only whisper, then a moan, and at last shrill cries on the wind. I pull my weapon to my shoulder and await the charge. The ghosts cross over the peak of the hill and glide towards me, the only man remaining outside. I fire my first bolt into the body of the foremost spirit, who seems perplexed that I am able to hit his incorporeal form. The bolt begins to glow a soft white, then explodes in a ball of beautiful holy magic, destroying a solid ten or so ghasts. Mom always said my talent with light magic would've made me a great paladin, but I'm too much of a free spirit. A quick reload and another shot causes the undead to halt, unsure if they wish to come any closer and risk destruction. I take the opportunity to calculate how many shots I can take before the ghosts reach me. Two...three...yes, three it is. Then I'll make quick work of them with my short sword. The spirits start once more, gliding ever closer. More fall to my crossbow, but suddenly a feeling of futility hits me. The entirety of the graveyard has emptied to challenge me now, and the wave of spectral foes now seems endless.

    I properly introduce the first few ghosts that reach me to my sword, a work of art crafted by a monk in Jidar. The holy magic imbued into its blade made quick work of the remaining ghosts of the first wave that my crossbow had thoroughly beaten down. But time is of the essence; I only have time for one shot before the host of the graveyard reaches me. Discretion, of course, being the better part of valor, I decide that the damage I have done thus far is more than enough for one night. I swiftly retreat to the safety of the nearby inn, where I am greeted by the thankful villagers eager to buy me foot and ale. Tomorrow I'll take whittle down the ghosts number even further, but dancing with the village lasses would fill my thoughts tonight.
    Entrant 3 - Ybbon
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    Mountain Sound

    The wind sighs across the tussocks, susurrating through the sharp blades of grass and carrying their voices down the mountainside, even though they were some distance away he thought that by some trick of the acoustics he could hear their every word. He watched as they walked with unfamiliarity across the boggy ground searching in vain for a drier path, he sneered inwardly at their struggles knowing that he had walked the same ground without all the effort and cursing this couple made.

    Their voices carried as they got closer. “I told you to watch where he went, I told you he was going too fast for us to keep up, but oh no, you said you could see where he was and now look? He's gone.” The woman's voice had an edge of panic creeping in as she berated her companion. “He went this way, just over that ridge he will turn back when he sees that we have fallen behind” the man tried to calm her, “Jack, Jack!” he shouted out as they headed for the ridge further down.

    Jack watched them move away from his hiding place, a small dip in the ground all that was required to remain hidden from people who had no right business being on his mountain anyway. As they walked further away he rose up and followed, watching them as their shouts became more plaintive in their desperation to find him, he glanced at the sky and even with cloud he knew that sundown would only be an hour at most. “Jack! Jack we need you, it's getting dark, Jack!” they could not keep the pleading from their voices now.

    Jack had crept up close behind now, if they knew all they had to do was whisper and he would hear them. The woman was sobbing into her companions shoulder, truly frightened by the dark and the way it fell so quickly on this lonely peak, “why did we come this way, what are we doing here?” she sobbed and moaned as her companion tried his best to comfort her.

    Jack rose behind the man, “I told you this was my mountain, I told you it would be better to go around but you had to come up to the top and see the view, I told you but you wouldn't listen, so I am sorry but this is all your fault”, he tried to explain and show the he had no option. “Jack! You scared us!” It was too late though, Jack sliced into them with his hunting knife watching the blood spurt out of their necks, he grabbed them and pulled them down to the ground knowing that each precious drop of blood was needed to feed the Mountains hunger, just like all the rest he had brought up here, young and old, man and woman, Jack had fed the all to the Mountain.
    Entrant 4 - Dude with the Food
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    Voices of Vulcan
    They called me mad. MAD! But they were wrong. They are all dead now. They didn’t matter anyway. Now they have locked me up, because they know I spoke the truth.

    The voices began Augustus 20th when the ground first shook. Vulcan himself spoke to me, just a whisper inside my head. “The people of this city have angered me. The ground will shake and the very land you call home will rage in an inferno never seen before. You will lose everything you love, Lucinius. And you can’t do anything.”

    Immediately, the ground shook, just as he said it would. The tremors had happened before, people weren’t bothered. They didn’t realise the imminent threat. It barely stopped though, but they didn’t notice. For three months, the ground shook. A constant shake. And Vulcan never stopped, he told me of how I would fail, how everybody would die! I told people. They were believed at first. The raging flames I could so vividly see. But then they stopped believing. They laughed. They laughed at me, told me I was mad. But I wasn’t. I wasn’t mad! I’m not MAD!
    Because it did happen. They don’t laugh now. I laugh. They are dead.

    Only three days later, on Vulcanalia, his own celebration, he first shouted at me. I saw what he could see, what he would do, how he would punish us. The mountain, exploding over the city. But nobody listened to me. NOBODY!

    Three months I endured, the outcast, the lunatic. The madman. Everybody had a name for me. But I am not mad. By the end, Vulcan was bellowing at me from under the mountain. He was screaming but only at me. He was everywhere but nobody could hear him. HOW? How couldn’t they hear him?

    Novembris 23rd was last. He roared at me, how this was the end. I told people, “Leave the city while you live!” Still they laughed. All of them. The farmer, the miller, the baker. All laughing. They all jeered and taunted. But I fled at noon. I fled from his anger. I walked on, reaching a hill. He appeared to me there. He didn’t say anything. Just nodded his head and pointed at Vesuvius behind the city. My city. Pompeii. I turned to see what he meant. Nothing happened. I looked back, he was gone. I thought that was it was over. I might enjoy the quietest sundown in a while.

    Then it erupted.

    Flames rose from the peak! Ash, smoke and a cloud of rock rained onto the city. For hours, it burst, with the entire God’s fury, out of the mountaintop. The city burned for hours. Then there was nothing. No city, just the charred of smoking rock. I watched it all night, smouldering away in the distance. Nothing else.

    And now I know.
    I am not mad.
    I was never mad.
    I AM NOT MAD!!!
    Entrant 5 - Audacia
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    The bus stopped. We filed through its doors and crowded around the burly, dark skinned tour guide with slicked back hair and a heavy accent. He smiled brightly at us, and beckoned us to follow him toward the entrance to the ancient town situated at the top of a small hill dotted with elegant cypress trees. We passed through a narrow stone corridor and found ourselves gaping at the magnificent ruins. I admired the perfection of the historic road upon which we walked, a road upon which citizens of the Empire walked nearly two thousand years ago. We approached the town’s forum, where citizens gathered, enjoyed conversation, and engaged in all things political. That was before death rained down upon them from the mighty Vesuvius.

    I thought of their wailing cries as they stood here, in the forum, while thick ash smothered their lungs and stifled their pleas for mercy from the gods. I turned and looked upon the mighty Vesuvius that stood in the distance, casting its shadow on the serene remains of the town of Pompeii. Like a tyrant, it spewed forth its anger with animalistic terror and ferocity extinguishing countless innocent lives. I gazed in awe at its grandeur and power.

    Our tour guide led us throughout the rest of Pompeii, showing our group the impressive baths, temples, and fast-food market stalls. We reached a small clearing where display cases housed the hollow remnants of citizens petrified during their last moments of agony. Their contorted, stone-encrusted bodies screamed in anguish as their voices could not. For a moment, as I looked upon the grisly scene with horror, I could hear their whispers still echoing thousands of years later. I nearly wept at the thought of their unimaginable suffering.

    The bright flashes of cameras and the directions of our tour guide jolted me back to the present. We left the ancient cemetery and returned to the entrance of the historic town. As we walked back toward the beckoning bus, the sundown’s fractured rays formed a fiery crown around the tyrant’s withered peak. Even though the memory of the plastered dead already started to fade as I boarded with my group, I knew the emotions would last a lifetime.
    Entrant 6 - Rex Anglorvm
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    Mountain Sound


    I’ve always liked sundown, especially when you reached the summit and you sit precariously on the peak of one of the most monumental creations of Mother Nature.

    You can almost hear the whisper down the ages of other climbers who have risked life and limb just to say ‘I beat that’ to themselves, to show that they were more than human more superhuman really. For me the journey up this particular peak had been harder than any other I had scaled, but not because of the difficulty of the climb, more because of the voices that are now lost to me forever after the last time I scaled anything back in the Spring of 2009.

    As a lifelong climber I could never have imagined a time when I would not want to climb, but until today I had not climbed in nearly four years. For in March 2009, I was part of an expedition up the Eider that ended in tragedy, the voices that are lost to me where my two best friends who were also my finest climbing buddies. An avalanche had hit us and blown us clean off of the north face, somehow and I don’t know how I had ended up on a ledge thousands of feet above the ground, I had several broken ribs and a broken right leg, but my friends had been blown clean over the edge by the force of the tumbling roaring snow, I had strained my eyes trying to pick them out of the snow but the distance had been too great, the last I saw of them was when I had to identify their crushed broken bodies in a mortuary.

    It took me ages to recover, not physically hell no, that was the easy part, but mentally, I was racked with guilt, even though I knew and their families knew that I could have done nothing, I still felt responsible. But then two weeks ago the widow of the one of the guys came to see me, she told me a few home truths, she chastised me about giving up climbing, how she knew the guys would not have wanted me to just throw in the towel. In short she told me to stop feeling sorry for myself, so I did.

    So now I’m sitting on top of this mountain with that very same widow sitting at my left, while my own wife sits at my right, the two women have had to be strong in different ways, my friend’s widow has had grief and loss to cope with whilst my own wife has had to put up with the guilt racked depressive that I had become, both of these women are stronger than me, they had they’re own epic mountain to climb. The three of us sit here listening to the mountain sound, the sound of blessed silence.
    Entrant 7 - Swaeft
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    "Will you surrender?"

    The thousand voices of my ancestors whirled around in my mind, hollering and protesting. Their whispers perforated my ear lobes, then fizzled out into nothingness.

    I looked over my shoulder through the tiny silts of my helm. A short distance away stood a lethargic, lackadaisical line of men. Their shields faltering even with the glorious rays on the Sun bearing straight down. Their swords fading into the abyss of their sheaths, for pride had long deserted them. Their faces a mask of desperation and sorrow, so twisted I could not recognize them.

    Awash with uncertainty I stared back into the vindictive eyes of the General. His columns of men seemed to stretch on forever, an elongated line of puppets that came from oblivion. They brought with them destruction and inhumane cruelty. They stood silent as one, whether in fear or in strict discipline I would not, and would never know. My eyes wandered back to the General's.

    My hands wriggled towards my helm. Rivulets of sweat cannoned off them. What was the point of fighting over a tiny, insignificant fortress at the peak of a small, rolling hill? What was the objective, when the war was already lost? The cogs in my head groaned as they moved, and I was grateful that I could still think coherently.

    The General was smiling--a lopsided, sardonic grin that sent shivers down my spine. I shifted my glance right--it was almost sundown.

    My helmet clattered to the ground, battered and bent from the rigors of war. I took one last, forlorn look at the rank and file behind me. None of them so much as twitched. I lifted a dagger ever so slightly, and felt the thrumming in the air as the General's archers drew their bowstrings taut, the deadly arrows bristling with eagerness. I slashed myself lightly, drawing thick scarlet blood. "I'll sign with this." I declared. The General's grin widened. He handed me the paper and I used the blunt end of my dagger to trace a signature I had used for countless years. With that, I sealed our fate.

    The General raised his hands, and a great bellow arose from the monsters behind him. Smiling triumphantly, he reached for the paper.

    "You haven't signed it."

    The General's laugh echoed across the empty hill--our souls had long deserted us. I did not flinch, but instead drew my sword. Once again I felt the archers aim for my chest. But this time it would end differently.

    "Let me help you sign it."

    My sword snaked for the General's neck as quickly as the arrows that flew towards mine. I managed to eke out one last, terrible shout.

    "FORWARD!"

    The two disproportionate lines surged towards each other, fighting tooth and nail for their lives, but the outcome was never in doubt.

    Somewhere in the midst of the chaos, two corpses lay immobile on the blood-caked ground, one of them still clutching fervently a helmet with the insignia of the Sixth.

    Entrant 8 - Kip
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    They told me I couldn't do it. They all said it was a dream, an idyllic dream, and that it would be the death of me. Well, they were right and they were wrong. As I lay here on the summit, gasping for breath, the life slowly slipping between my lips, I realize that they were right and they were wrong.

    I used to look up at the peak, a solemn throne beneath the sun, and wonder who deserved to be seated upon it. It looked so magnificent, soaring high above the city where I occupied an eight-by-eight prison cell my entire life. Many had tried to take their place upon the kingly chair. Many had failed, and many had succeeded. I could succeed. I always knew in the deepest reaches of my heart that I could. Maybe I was dissatisfied with my own life - that's what my therapist told me. Maybe I was out to prove how much of a man I was - that's what my wife told me. I don't know why exactly I couldn't get the voices out of my head for all those years. The voices that told me to climb the mountain, to claim it as my own.

    At dusk, just after sundown, the mountain would light up. Pinks, oranges, a brightly-colored crown for a pale king clothed in white. I would look out upon the distance, gazing upon the master of our realm, and the voices would fill my head. The voices urging me upwards, and the voices pulling me back down. Now, I look down upon the city with haughty disdain - I am the king upon the mountain, and they are mere peasants before my might. Somewhere down there, mere motes of dust before my grandeur, are my therapist, my wife, the cubicle, the smoky cars and the lonely bars. How transient. How sinfully plain. In life, I was wasted. In death, I am great.

    Misguided? Maybe. Desperate? Maybe. But those are just words. I can choose words too. Illustrious, grandiose, splendorous.

    The voices whisper to me now. They are whispering to their king.


    TotW 174 - The One to Beat
    challenge, record, despise, monumental, zoanthropy

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Rhio
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Fat Guy is picking his nose again. He smeared his previous finds on his K-Mart jeans, but apparently, he has now discovered a new-found notion of personal hygiene. So instead he twirls his putrid snot betweens his fingers, rolling it up into a little ball, before skillfully flicking it in the direction of his neighbor, Unibrow. I can’t tell where it lands though. My lawyer, whose name I don’t care to remember, obstructs my view by parading along the jury’s box. A jury of my peers no less. The mere thought sickens me.

    I guess it’s natural though, to despise the people who are going to pass sentence on you. Especially, if said sentence involves shackles, a poisonous syringe and an audience.

    However, let the record show, that Fat Guy couldn’t possibly care less. Slouched in his seat, serene and undisturbed, this flannel-shirted Budha of the courtroom has obviously reached a Nirvana of complete, blissful ignorance. It reminds me of how stupid I felt, when I completely misjudged his pensive look on Day 2. For almost a minute, he had me believe that his brain was challenging itself in a sincere attempt at grasping the situation. Yet it turned out, Fat Guy was just wondering whether he could pass gas within the monumental halls of justice, without anyone noticing.

    He couldn’t.

    That day, the thunderous sound of Fat Guy’s trembling butt-cheeks even silenced the pompous DA mid-sentence, while Unibrow’s face twisted itself in an expression of both horror and disgust. I would’ve advised her nostrils to seek refuge in the massive cleavage of Old Red. Yet against better judgement, Unibrow foolishly bore the brunt of Fat Guy’s morning-burrito. An act of pure insanity, if you ask me.
    And I happen to know a thing or two about insanity.

    Three years in Saint Edward’s Cuckoo’s Nest. Hardly an eternity, I know, and the first two and a half years weren’t even that bad. Lots of drugs, and group therapy was always good for a laugh. Unfortunately, the good life ended when they roomed me up with Pluto. The redheaded bastard walked on all fours, proudly urinated all over the damn place and chewed on my loafers. Zoathrophy, the doc called it, and urged me to have patience. So I did. Not for the inbred mongrel, but for the doc. I liked her.

    Nonetheless, things still started going a bit downhill from that point. Right up until that fateful night. Pluto was, once again, keeping me up with his infernal barking. I slapped him with a newspaper a couple of times, but that only resulted in high pitched whining. I figured only a more drastic approach would alleviate my situation. So I proceeded to set Pluto alight using a mixture of rubbing alcohol and lighter fluid.

    Watching him flail his arms and scream in panic, I came to a baffling realization. Pluto was human once again. I cured him.
    Entrant 2 - ☩Lord Inquisitor Derpy Hooves☩
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    General de Babonne

    Concerning the Coalition strategy of freeing the Umbalek area of Bania, the Coalition must be made aware of the uniqueness of Umbalek. As you are the general of the 2nd Frankian Royal National Army, which will spearhead the assault in Umbalek, it is more important that you are made aware of the culture of Umbalek. Failing to do so would very well result in a disastrous campaign

    The land of Umbalek is like a gold mine for the study of zoanthropy. The people here literally believe that they have been turned into animals. This is likely due to their diet. The beverages that they ingest contain various toxins, of which will bring on delusions; delusions which makes them see each other as some carnivorous beast. For Imperialist scholars, researching Umbalek has been quite challenging as the natives have been very aggressive towards outsiders, which oddly enough are not seen by the natives as animals, rather they are seen as looking like how you or I normally looks. Scholars of Umbalek believe that this is due to the distinctive odor of the natives. Regardless, this has had a very effect on the Umbalek culture.

    The aggressive tendencies of the Umbaleks were first noted during the Privad Invasion of Umbalek.
    The invasion had a monumentally catastrophic effect on their society, especially since it seems that they isolated themselves from the rest of Bania. Thus, the arrival of the Privad armies with their musket-armed soldiers, despite the incompetency of the Privads, took the Umbaleks by complete surprise.

    This, combined with the Privad oppression of the Umbaleks, has likely led them to despise outsiders. As such, upon entering the known lands of Umbalek, I highly recommend that your army tread carefully through the land. Focus only on the task that has been assigned to you by the Coalition Army High Command. From the few records the Immortal Empire has on the Umbaleks and their society it is clear to me that to the Frankians, as well as all modern societies, the Umbaleks will appear barbaric. However, the armies of the modern world are not here to impose their culture upon the chaotic lands of Bania. It would only further complicate our mission in Bania, and lead to an insurgency that we are not here to fight. Our mission is to purge this world of all rebellious Privads that refuse to renounce their ranks.

    As far as more information on the Umbaleks and their society is concerned, I am the most versed of all the scholars who have attached themselves to the 3rd Army of the First Janak Legion. Thus, if what I have informed you of has made you aware of the complexities of the situation, I would be more than willing to join with the 2nd Frankian Royal National Army. I should tell you that it was the Lord General of the 3rd Army who requested that I send you this advice.

    I am but your humble servant,

    Scholar Balan
    Entrant 3 - Dude with the Food
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The One to Beat
    Schwurz stared deep into his handler’s eyes. The old man was used to the Austrian firing himself up before a fight and so was completely relaxed as he prepared the gladiator for battle.
    “So this is it. If you win this, you become champion of men. A record number of wins and this year's Maximus Victor.”
    “I am no man. You forget all us gladiators are not human. It is the ignominy of zoanthropy isn’t it. None of us are human.” He spat out the words, searching his master's face for disagreement.
    “You are human enough. I know how much you despise the system but this final will be monumental! The deadly Black Eagle of the Alps faces the mighty Gold Lion of the Nile. Tooth, or talon? Feather, or fur? Don’t you realize the stakes? Now help me get this on you?” He struggled as the helm slipped yet again upon Schwurz’s beak. “Now you’re just about ready. Go out there and you kill him. Ok? If you don’t I will personally kill you myself. Get onto his back. He can’t reach behind himself and you aren’t confined to the floor. And avoid him head on. I remember him putting his teeth through many of his opponents.”
    “Yes sir. You will have a fresh lion-skin pelt around your neck for the celebrations.”
    “I better. Now go out there and make me proud.”
    Schwurz turned to the open gate. The sun glared inwards at him as he extended his wings. Each feather had been individually preened by an expert team and shone, black as jet. His flexed his talons sending the midday sun showering in all directions. The crowd was roaring, cheering for their final two heroes to fight to the death. He stepped out.

    He strutted out into the centre of the coliseum. It seemed the entire population of Novus Roma had appeared to watch the biggest fight of the year - the final of the gladiator beast tournament. Farmers, statesmen, factory workers, priests and the Emperor himself all gathered in one place for an almighty bloodshed. Schwurz did his usual, a triumphant glide around the stadium before landing below the royal balcony and bowing low to the ground before his Imperator’s divine presence. Then with a nod, he paraded to his start place, a small dais between his gate, and the centre of the arena. Promptly, in came his rival, Elasad of Egypt marched into the ground. His mane glittered gold under the searing heat and his olive skin gleamed like the sands he walked on. After his crowd winning roar, he settled on his own platform, raised above the ground of mortals. The winner would become immortal. For the loser, only death. The tension of uncalled challenges froze the onlookers as they bore into one another’s eyes searching for weakness.
    The Emperor’s hand dropped. The horns blared. They fought.
    Entrant 4 - Confederate Jeb
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    "He's suffering from an extreme case of zoanthropy. Bad business really. It'll take a small number of examinations and a large amount of time to find out what exactly we're dealing with, but his recent...desire for dog biscuits seems to point that direction. This is a challenge that all of our staff are willing, and able, to tackle, so fret not miss."

    "Don't worry sir, she is physically healthy right now. However, the concussion caused a bit of trauma, which has manifested itself as hallucinations. Everyone around her appears to be giant spiders to her eyes. Good thing she doesn't have arachnophobia. The missus suffered a relapse yesterday, but she is still recovering in record time. You'll have her safe and sound at home again in a month or two."

    "Our tests conclude that your son does indeed despise broccoli."

    "The drugs have had no affect in his behavior, as he is still referencing the voices in his head. We started an ECT regiment last week that...it means electroconvulsive therapy...we conduct electricity through the body in order to cause a seizure...I don't see why this is upsetting you."

    "I'm sorry ma'am, but your husband is indeed Swedish. Currently there is no known cure. Some day, some day..."

    "...and so I said to him, "Cheer up mate, it can't get any worse." And he said, "My mother-in-law died last night." I asked him why that was a bad thing. That's when he came at me with the tongue depressor."

    By this point the gash in my arm seemed like a trivial paper cut. I had also realized that I was in a psychiatric hospital, not the run of the mill kind that dealt with accidental run-ins with gardening tools. Needless to say upon realizing my monumental mistake I immediately relocated myself away from the establishment.
    Entrant 5 - Audacia
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I sweat. Beads of salty perspiration run down my face. I pull my damp, sticky shirt away from my slippery skin in a pitiful attempt to cool myself. My nostrils flare at the scent of me and countless other desperate men looking to strike it big. Our fates rest on the burly four-legged creatures on the track. Although we might live pathetic lives away from this glorious place, lives full of monumental failure and disappointment, here we have a chance at victory. Here, at the track, we can go to escape our nagging wives and overbearing bosses. Here, at the track, we can relish in the thought of riches, fame, and triumph. Here, it is not called gambling. Here, it is deemed a challenge, a challenge to pick the best steed and win.

    The heat is nearly palpable. It rests heavy upon the entirety of my fidgety body. But no matter, this is my big chance, my last chance. I grabbed the last stack of bills from the shoebox under my bed before I left. I counted four-hundred dollars, enough to buy another car, enough to buy food for a year. I clung to four-hundred fresh, crisp green bills. And that was it. My four-hundred dollars now depend on the performance of a domesticated animal.

    I look around at the terse faces. Men’s eyes are fixed upon their bets while their fingers pitter patter against their pant legs. I glance at the seats below my section. Ladies dressed in fine, colorful clothing and large bonnets fan themselves gently and their male companions talk jovially among one another. How I despise their lives of luxury. Here, at the track, my future hangs in the balance. They could not care less about the race. There, they laugh and drink and shout cheerfully. Here, we sit and wait and sweat and shake.

    I look to the track. A man stands with a gun next to the starting gate. Crack. The gate’s steely doors fly open with a crash and the beautiful animals begin their dash toward the finish line. Their muscles ripple beneath their glistening fur as their hooves kick up the soft dirt of the track. One man chants, “I can do it…I can win this,” as if he is the animal racing to the finish line himself. “Zoanthropy,” I mutter. Other men jeer at the animals loudly, while some simply watch with a scowl.

    The mighty steeds near the end of their grand journey round the glorious track. Three of them fight for the triumphant victory. They turn the last corner toward us now. Black Jack leads the pack by a hair’s length. One-hundred yards, then fifty, then ten, then they cross the finish. The riches, the fame, the triumph, it is mine. I play the finish over and over in my head like a broken record. “My wife will not complain tonight…”
    Entrant 6 - Kip
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    It's over.

    It's all over.

    All that work. The long hours bent over books, bleaching my eyes with the incandescent glare of screens and gloom-shadowed pages. Wasted! All of it wasted! Oh, how I took up arms so valiantly when the challenge was leveled against me! I swooped down and picked up that gauntlet without so much as a misplaced heartbeat. I was untouchable, my might unfathomable, my future unimaginable. Never could I have imagined that it would all come crashing down so ingloriously, so ignobly, so disgracefully!

    The lights are blinding. Why are the lights so blinding? My eyes already ached, and now they wish to gouge them out completely. My brow is glistening. I can tell by the way that thousands of eyes in the crowd are staring at me. Each pair watching, predatory, waiting for me to fail. Oh, how I despise those eyes. I'd have them out, each and every one of them! I wipe a sleeve across my face. It comes away wet with my shame. I suddenly remember the cameras that will be recording this. Swaddled between manicured palms or hairy knuckles, thanks to those God-forsaken things there will be a permanent record etched in digital stone. An unforgettable memory of my monumental failure, preserved for all the ages!

    Nay! I will not go down so easily. I will not let those slavish hours evaporate in an instant of panic. I delve into the inner workings of my head, past the sweat collecting on my brow again, past the skin flushing with nervous blood, past the skull throbbing as if clattered by the hoof of an irritated horse.

    "Could you repeat that?" I squeak, a noise more fitting a mouse or beetle than a human.

    The response booms across the crowd. "Zoanthropy. Zoanthropy."

    "Could you use it in a sentence?"

    "Because the man would not cease neighing and trotting about like a horse, the psychiatrist diagnosed him with Zoanthropy."

    Zoanthropy! I may develop a case of it myself, only instead of a horse I shall become a Fury, a goddess-beast extorting my vengeance from the beady eyes watching me hungrily.

    I'll have to wing it. "Z. O. I."

    BEEP.

    The buzzer sings. My eyes drop. The crowd is not staring its judgement any more. Their eyes are glittery with pity. Four of them are tempered with pride. Fourth place isn't the end of the world, they'll say. And I'll say: It's over.

    It's all over.
    Entrant 7 - Dance
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I've been institutionalized, and dealing with this my entire life. It's a constant challenge. From psychologist to psychologist, they tire of my constant cling to the belief in what I am.

    So what if they don't see it. So what if my parents don't see it? My family? My friends? My fellow inpatients? Does that mean I am not what I believe I am? I would greatly beg to differ. Dr. Hubert coined it zoanthropy. But I just don't believe they understand. I know what I am, and it is not an illness. Yet they still believe that I am withered in mind.

    Is it my fault? Is it truly my fault? I greatly embrace my 'difference', as they refer to it. The nurses here despise me. I can hear them giggle, as I pass by. A drain upon society. A drain on the economy. A leech of resources. If only they would see that I am telling them the truth!

    They force me to sit through interview after interview. Toying with me. These psychologists pretend to listen, they jot down their notes, and sometimes, they even record our conversations. But for what purpose? To mock me in their spare time? To try and stump me, or confuse my train of thought. They are dastardly people. They do not help us. I have seen hundreds of others, like me, but with different 'illnesses', who come in and out. None of us ever received help. We end up right back in here, bolstering the coffers of these doctors, and ensuring them continued employment by providing them by being their not so lauded guinea pigs. Collecting a paycheck at the end of the day, and that's all this will ever be.

    They claim they make monumental breakthroughs, and amazing advances in psychology, by identifying, addressing, and finally curing many of the 'mental ailments' they claim that we have, but I have been an institutionalized lab rat for far too long! It must end. I am ready to embrace in my full bird form. I am ready to spread my wings wide, and soar through the skies, as I was meant to. As I was born to do. This is my time. This is where I must make my stand, for my friends inside of here, and for all alike us, everywhere.

    I will be free, finally. I will fly away.

  3. #43

    Default Re: TotW Story Index

    TotW 175 - Pray
    meaning, talking, heart, hummingbird, weeping
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Audacia
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Bang! An explosion rang outside. They had got in. I jerked my head instinctively to the gates. Phew. They hadn’t got this far yet.
    “Be calm. You cannot gain by panicking. Look to your future.”
    “Don’t you see? There is no future. Not for me anyway. You can carry on discovering the meaning of life but I won’t. You think I’ll even have a life?” I shouldn’t have snapped at him but he wasn’t the one about to be killed, executed for a murder he didn’t commit. I couldn’t have even been there. But now they are here. For me!
    “You didn’t have to run.”
    “You aren’t helping! I came here for help, not to be lectured. Right now my heart’s going faster than a cheetah and you’re telling me to talk?”
    “You know a cheetah’s heart rate only reaches 250 beats per minute but a hummingbird can reach 1260. Fascinating little birds they are.”
    I’m obviously not getting through to the priest; he just doesn’t realize the seriousness of the situation. Talking of hummingbirds while I’m about to die. Now if he could turn me into a hummingbird, I could reach the hole in the window above me. A shout in the corridor and a door is smashed open. They were getting closer and I couldn’t go any further. This would be it, I’d die here before God, at least he knows true. Stuck in a church in the middle of nowhere. Wait, it is a church… I can hide.
    I scramble up over the steps, desperately trying to reach my goal. The priest beside starts at me so I turn and mutter one word. “Sanctuary.”
    I dive under the altar pulling the cloth back in place and I can see the poor man shaking his head. He barely knows me but I’m trusting him with my life. Right after I’ve hassled, pleaded and screamed at him. I’ve been in better positions before.
    The doors slam open and immediately a squad of men run in, encased in full body armour, with guns and helmets – the lot. I seriously am in some deep | this time. One of them gruffly calls the old man over. They stand talking, too long. I’m almost suffocating, can they not hear me? The tension is unbearable under here. Doesn’t help, I’m claustrophobic. I’m shivering with fear and my heart’s going faster than a hummingbird’s. Funny that, stuck under here, the bird is all I can think of. That, and how utterly terrified I am.
    I’m almost weeping now, it’s been over an hour and they are only about to leave now. I guess I’m free as long as I can reach Mexico quickly. They’re heading out the door, the priest is waving. I leap out from hiding, drenched in sweat. Wait. The door re-opens.
    Entrant 2 - Unknown
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Hopelessness described his situation quite adequately. The feeling of being a lone hummingbird
    in a great world, a world of misery with himself in focus, brought him to the verge of tears. Some philosopher or alike once said even the batting wings of a butterfly could change the course of history. A magnifying and great achievement for something so small, so powerless a butterfly was to the power of the world. The world of misery, he remembered. His own
    meaning
    in the world had been lost to him for years. He had searched, for sure; others had even searched for him. He had tried
    talking
    , pried open his
    heart
    for a thorough mental examination by physiologists.
    Weeping
    helped him little, he did it no longer. Long since had his eyes dried out, he no longer wept. Not a tear. Not a single drop of salty liquid to spread in his own wounds. Once a man had asked him to do something. Pray, he had said. Pray, he had laughed back, sarcastic and mocking, though ironic in his own state of self-pity and lack of benevolence. Dressed nicely, the man had been. Suit, night black, striped with grey. Hair combed slightly to the side, chin raked for hair. No dark rings inclining his eyes. His own counterpart, he knew. Then he prayed.
    Entrant 3 - Dance
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    North American Birds, Rivers, Medical Abnormalities, Asiatic Trees, African Nations

    Hmm.. Okay, I can do this. I know I can do this.


    "Medical abnormalities for twelve hundred, please" Jonathan says, eagerly.

    Alex clears his throat, "An abnormality, commonly brought on by conditions, such as asthma, that causes the heart to skip a beat?"

    LIGHT

    "Jonathan?"

    "What is a palpitation."

    "Correct!"

    I did it, okay, keep your composure, keep your composure.

    "Jonathan, your selection again."

    Okay, relax, relax, think, breathe deep, inhale. Asiatic trees, I can do this one. Go big or go home

    "Asiatic trees, for sixteen hundred, Alex."

    Alex reads off the card, "This type of ornamental tree originated in northern China, is known by it's scientific name, 'Salix babylonica'."

    I know this

    LIGHT

    "What is a weeping willow, Alex," Jonathan said, with ease.

    Alex nodded, "right."

    Okay, I can do this, I can do this, Yes! Medical school, here I come.

    “African Nations for sixteen hundred,” Jonathan said excitedly.

    “Another daily double! For thirty two hundred. A nation completely within a nation, Letsie the third, rules this nation.”

    LIGHT

    Alex looks to Jonathan, “Jonathan, again.”

    Jonathan could barely contain his excitement, “What is Lesotho,” he says heartily.

    “Correct, again.” Alex smirked.

    Nailing that hummingbird daily double really bolstered my stance in this game, I can’t be stopped. Go big, or go home! No regrets. Then bring on the final jeopardy.

    "Sorry, we are out of time. Now, for the double jeopardy category, 'Mercenaries.' We'll be right back after this commercial break," Alex says, but since the show isn't filmed live, he continues right away with the final jeopardy.

    Okay, some breathing room. Wow, I cannot believe this. There is no way I could have recalled half of that off the top of my head like that. Oh wow, I’m getting chills. It’s do or die here

    Jonathan looks next to him at Su-Jin, the psychiatrist, from New York, and smiles at him, and nods curtly.

    All the time for talking after the game, I must focus. I am going to destroy you. Both of you. I’ll show you the meaning of champion.

    “Welcome back, and now for our final jeopardy question. This Greek mercenary commander famously advocated a scorched earth policy, against Alexander the Great."

    After a thirty seconds, Alex looks to Maryanne, “’Who is Pharnabazus?’ No, sorry Maryanne, your wager was nothing. You remain at four thousand,” He looks to Su-Jin and reads, "'Who is Mentor of Rhodes?’ No, sorry, Su-Jin, your wager is four thousand, you drop to eleven thousand." He turns to Jonathan, "Jonathan, ‘Who is Memnon of Rhodes?’ Correct! Your wager, twelve thousand. Congratulations, Jonathan, you have won tonight’s game of jeopardy, with earnings of twenty four thousand dollars, and a spot on tomorrow night’s show."

    Every little bit counts. Now, it’s time I beat Ken Jennings. Only seventy four more victories to go!
    Entrant 4 - Unknown
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I struggle trying to understand death. I have yet to be exposed to it on a personal level beyond losing my beloved aunt at the age of four. I cannot comprehend it, I cannot accept it, and I am, above all, terribly afraid of it. So when I heard that my grandfather, a kind, compassionate man of eighty nine years, was seriously ill and admitted to a hospital, I panicked. Finally it appeared as though I would have to face the dark, foreboding face of death and its tremendous emotional impact on my life.

    I responded to this crisis with prayer. Being a spiritual individual, I genuinely believe in the power of prayer and its ability to soothe both myself and others. As difficult as it is for me to admit, I prayed for very selfish reasons. I wanted my grandfather to remain in good health so that I, as weak and frightened as I was, would not have to suffer through the loss of a loved one. My heart pounded rapidly like the fluttering wings of a hummingbird whenever I thought of the grief and misery losing my grandfather would bring me. How would I grieve? How painful would it be? How long would I be miserable?

    Talking, pleading, begging the supernatural to spare your deteriorating grandfather out of a misplaced sense of self pity certainly takes an emotional toll. I felt immense guilt in putting my interests above those of my grandfather and the rest of my family. I decided to take a step back from my obsessive fear of death and tried to imagine the utter depression and sadness my grandfather must have felt lying incapacitated and alone in a hospital bed. My grandfather, who worked with tools throughout his life and nearly built his entire house, was a self-sufficient, hardworking man. I tried entering his mind to feel what it must be like to be rendered immobile and bereft of all energy. I tried to understand his pain, his suffering, and his personal fear of nearing the end of his own life. I envisioned him weeping at the thought of his own helplessness.

    My prayers then adopted an entirely new meaning. I prayed for my grandfather’s happiness and joy in knowing his family and many others loved him unconditionally. I prayed for his speedy recovery, and that he might be able to again feel useful. Above all, I prayed for his courage in the face of death, that his fear of uncertainty would be replaced with serenity and acceptance. I hoped that he would reflect upon his life and his long list of accomplishments and realize the good he brought to the world.

    My grandfather remains hospitalized, but continues to fight no matter what challenges stand in his way. I can only hope my prayers, combined with the dedicated efforts of doctors, nurses, and hospital staff, can make a small difference in maintaining his health and courage through these difficult times.
    Entrant 5 - Unknown
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The tree is dusted with white blossoms. They hang heavily from the branches, eagerly awaiting their chance to burst into fruit and give their seeds back to the earth. I kneel beneath it, enjoying the warm fragrance of springtide bloom. Despite the the ants tickling my ankles, I realize there is no finer spot to be had in all the world.

    A hummingbird darts between the branches, suckling at the nectar hidden inside the snowflake flowers. The petals dance beneath her wings. I watch as the bird floats effortlessly, a wisp painted emerald and ruby. Her dust-mote heart beats a thousand times per second. The tree's heart beats once every thousand years. My heart no longer beats. With one last kiss between long-lost friends, the hummingbird disappears into the sky, a rhythmic lilt of the branch the only evidence she was ever there. More was spoken in that single kiss than two friends could ever by talking for a thousand years. I long for such company, for an embrace that speaks the meaning of a century's worth of mysteries in the space of a single skipped heartbeat. I place my hand upon my chest, urging it to feel the vibrations of a happy heart. Instead, all I feel is weeping.

    The ants are bolder now, nicking my skin with tiny razors. The wind speaks louder, and the tree replies in discontent. The flowers turn grey, coated with smoke and haze. If I could speak with the Earth, I would ask her why this must happen to all beautiful things. Why must there in the end be a blackened heart inside every color, every scent, every smile?

    The hummingbird appears before me. She stares into my eyes, her head cocked inquisitively to the side. I reach out a quiet hand, and she perches upon it.

    Thump.

    Thump.

    Thump.

    Thump.

    Her heart beats slowly. Her heart beats true.

    I place my other hand upon my chest again.












    Thump.


    TotW 176 - Chasing Cars
    thrill, climate, garden, power, race
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Dance
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    As a youth, I would race through the halls of my great uncle Julius' villa. They were massive halls, unlike the halls of the villa of my stepfather, Lucius. I am glad that Lucius showed me disdain, in my youth, or perhaps I wouldn't have been introduced to this world of splendor, to which I owe my true upbringing.

    Great uncle Julius was far more of a father figure than Lucius had ever been, to me. Had it not been for my great uncle Julius, I may not have obtained all in which I now hold dear. The bond, the close connection we shared led to the establishment of my great empire, and growing power. The base of this mighty empire, was constructed only by the brilliant political maneuvers Julius had made for himself.

    He made fellow senators his puppets, and the senate forum, the stage. Playing one against another, all the while, he enshrined his influence abroad, over the legions, where the true power of Rome lies. Foolish were they to be so blind, when right before them, some senators, such as my great uncle Julius, and the once thought villainous, but now misunderstood Pompey, whom both enhanced their holds on power. It was only a matter of time, before they would have clashed with one another. They were the mightiest of men in the Republic, and quite possibly the entire Mediterranean.

    Even now, as I sit, in the garden of my uncle, the great Julius Caesar, unchanged by the years since his unfortunate, and dastardly assassination, by such malevolent miscreants. For him, I keep it pure. The constant upkeep that I see necessary, to keep it in the image he left it, and as I remember it, from my youth. Memories of a time once thought unending. This is my carefree haven. It is here where I can forget the constant annoyances of a needy senate. Taking in small, but frequent sifts of air, fresh as they were fifty years ago, as unchanged in perfection, as the alabaster pillars, that line themselves around this courtyard.

    I look at my red hands, and my mean face, and I feel the scars of age, having crept upon me so silently in the countless nights long yore. I look back at those furious days, and I ponder about the powerful men, whom once stood before me, and were swiftly cut down. The change in the senate, noticeable, these last thirty years. The political climate indeed has been cooled, in recent years. I have forged the unification of a strong, and determined people.

    The first of my ruling house, none can deny my achievements. My vengeance on those who would incite treasonous, and despicable acts upon my family. Alas, the challenges, and the trials and tribulations endured, which once brought such pain, such unpredictability, and sometimes, an odd thrill, are all but a distant memory. A memory that I, nor any that come after, shall ever forget.


    Imperator Caesar Divi F. Augustus
    Entrant 2 - Dude with the Food
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I didn’t think I can mess up my life any more. I messed up that too. Dropped out of college for the thrill of it. Spent a year gambling, drinking – all that stuff. Got a rubbish job sweeping Big Macs after people’s lunch breaks finish. Going to get fired for a row with the boss – one of those stuck-up, self-important people that annoy everybody. If there was any reason for me to keep my job, it’s gone now. Stopped off at Subway for something before I’ve no money left, BMT today. I step outside and never mind the BMT, but the BMW. My girlfriend’s car, which I’d borrowed to get here because I’m late, is missing. Only third-hand but I can hardly get her a new one can I? Probably taken so some high-school show-off can impress his mates in some street race.

    Now I have no way to the place I’ll get fired, no way home and no money to phone for help. And I’m ashamed to say I’m not even surprised. Can’t turn up tomorrow. Can’t go home and face her. I guess I’m stuck trekking a few miles to my parents and just sit in their garden until the police expect me to pay off some gambling debt. Such is that of this modern climate. Parents won’t turn me down. Dad’ll say how disappointed he is: mum’ll say do the right thing. They can’t talk. They only went and had me at sixteen.

    Nothing left to do but turn to drugs. Again. Funnily enough, I had a stable economy back then. Not to mention I was happy. Maybe the peace was most likely illegal but it was still happiness. Everything was simpler then. Buy, siphon, sell, eat, sleep. It worked. I guess that is the power of life isn’t it. You get into a routine and it snatches from under your nose – though I’ve had my fair share of snatching from under others’. Still, stealing my life and not my car are a bit over the top I think. Somebody has it in for me up there but I don’t know anybody. Everyone else has the fortune of living while I barely survive without breaking some law or rule.

    Some life this is.
    Entrant 3 - Confederate Jeb
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Nothing is more exciting than the thrill of the hunt. For weeks I had watched my prey from a distance, learning his routine, his habits. He was a marvelous bird, the likes of which I had seen only on occasion before when I was small, weak, and insignificant. But now I had the power and knowledge of an adult, and I would seize my prize through sheer cunning and strength.

    The first encounter proved to be ill planned. The climate was not right for the hunt; it was a hot day, with no snow to match my camouflage. Still, a valiant effort on my part was still made, but I underestimated my foe. One wrong step lead to the bird's eyes meeting mine, a stare into one another's very essence. This lasted only a few seconds, but the damage had been done; the bird lifted his marvelous wings and began to race skyward, leaving me alone, sully, on the ground below.

    The second attempt, while unsuccessful, gave me new insight into the mind of the beast. It was a calm night, quite calm really. I had left my post unmanned in order to take a brief nap when suddenly the rustling of feathers awoke me from sweet slumber. As I jolted back to the world of the living and rushed to my position I saw the bird closer than ever before. More than that, he was preening! The bird was taunting me! He wanted the challenge of being the prey but found me incapable of being the predator. This I would not stand for, and as the rage a built inside me I began a leaping run towards the avian. The bird, having clearly succeeded in rustling my feathers as it were, began to once again take off. My last lunge at the animal missed by a mere inch as once again my prey eluded me. But his pride and arrogance would be his downfall.

    Oh, the sweet, sweet third attempt. Third times the charm, as they say. The weather was perfect; a light snowfall had covered the ground. Not enough to hamper my movements, but just enough to conceal my body. The bird had taken position even closer than before; however, he failed to realize that I had positioned myself away from my usual perch. As he stared at the emptiness that filled my normal position, I quietly made my way to the bird's back. Once he finally realized his error, it was too late for him. I pounced upon his back just as his wings began to unfold, clinching my sharp teeth around his neck. It was only a matter of time before he would be dead, and I would carry my prey across the garden back to my windowsill. Truly, nothing is more splendid than hunting.
    Entrant 4 - Ybbon
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Chasing Cars

    What was that saying? “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”, well given he was an English bulldog then he was certainly qualified but he was beginning to think that the saying wasn't granting permission to who could be out, rather who was lacking in the necessary intelligence to be out right now, probably all that climate change that they spoke of!

    He steeled himself bulldog spirit and all that, but damn it was hot and the shade under the old chestnut tree did look extremely inviting today. He had spent many a comfortable hour lying in the garden under the tree with one eye watching the World, making desultory moves to chase next door's cat and growling enthusiastically at any delivery van that had the temerity to race down the street. The mailman had learned long ago that the shade had to be checked carefully before delivering the mail.

    Notwithstanding the lure of the shade tree, a dog had to do what a dog had to do, and today, that nasty little yappy terrier at number twenty three had challenged him to a car chase so he had to stand in the sun waiting for the right car. Now he thought about it, Bruce had an idea that the terrier made him stand here and wait for the car so he got hot, bothered, sapping his energy for the upcoming race. Just as he started to consider he had been duped, she turned from Elm onto Oak, old Mrs Docherty peering over the wheel of her ancient open top Cadillac and weaving slightly at a steady ten miles an hour.

    Bruce trotted to the gate and knocked the latch up with his nose and edged forward to the kerb, taking a look back down as the car trundled down the road he got ready to take a flying leap after her, all the power he could muster ready to push himself after her. The race was to beat her car to the third lamp-post on the left, cock your leg on said lamp-post and back to the starting point before she reached the end of the road and turned up Pine.

    The terrier was faster and should really win the race, but Bruce knew Jimmy would do what he always did and carry on chasing her car past the lamp-post and all the way along Pine as she threatened to send him to the glue factory. Every time they had these races it was the same by the time they reached the lamp-post, Jimmy consumed by the thrill of the chase and Bruce ambling back to his shade. Oh happy day!
    Entrant 5 - Heiro de Bodemloze
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Doglike Viewpoint

    Cars were too fast. Cars were meh. Chasing cars was not something Pluto would be spending his time with anymore. Bikes, however… Bikes were good, bikes were easy to chase. Almost like squirrels, only bikes didn’t run up into the trees and hide there. Pluto didn’t like it when squirrels did that. Pluto liked to race though, he liked to sprint all he could, chase a car, a bike, a squirrel, a newspaper-boy, a mail-man, chase that grumpy old women who lived two houses away, chase a cat, chase one of those sticks. Yes, there was an undeniable thrill in chasing. Oooh, a fly. Gardens were nice for chasing, that’s for sure. There was lots of nice space, lots! And there were squirrels. And bikes. But no cars. Cars weren’t meh. Cars were fun. But they were hard to chase.

    Pluto didn’t like cars. Is it dinner? I think it’s dinner. Pluto had power in his legs, he could run fast. Almost as fast as a car. Chasing cars was fun. Bikes were easier. But bikes fell. And the bikers cried. That was not so fun. Not always, anyways. Rain was good climate for chasing. When it rained there weren’t many bikes, though. Only cars. Not even squirrels. Squirrels sat in their trees. It was their home. Pluto had a home too. A small house. It was nice to have when the rain was white. Very nice. But rain was good chasing weather. In rain, Pluto didn’t get too warm. Too warm wasn’t good. Then he had to go under a tree. And then there was squirrels. Too warm wasn’t good. Pluto liked chasing cars.



    TotW 177 - The Painted Ones
    breach, barbaric, song, thug, pattern
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Dude with the Food
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    They are coming.

    I can hear them now; shouting and singing, cursing and killing. They must have forced a breach. Maybe we’ve had this coming. During the invasion the locals here welcomed us in: I think so we could beat to death another equally barbaric clan. Anyway, I guess they’ve had a little rethink and decided that while it’s just us seniors, they can run in, take back their lands and burn down a few temples. Most of these were still wet behind the ears while I was fighting. And apparently I’ll have to fight again. This was supposed to be an easy retirement now, settle down with the other veterans; not carry on killing - without pay.

    I can see them now. At the end of the street, a mob of thugs patterned rich in blues and greens, streaked in red. Red with the blood of my fellow soldiers, most of whom I have spent years with. They brandish wickedly sharp swords and spears, all the while bellowing what they are going to do to my daughter. I let myself laugh at the thought for my daughter is non-existent. And I can easily say the same for the man next to me. He looks about fourteen, barely strong enough to hold the shield and knife he has been given. Unlike my soldier’s frame, shaped by years of military grudge and honed by a will to live. Nay. A determination.

    I can smell them now. The stench of burning and blood is thick around them. Covered in thick swirling woad, a death trance to the lighter of heart, they charge. Back in the day I’d be launching my pilum into the barrel chest of this warrior before me. Then my gladius would be drawn, ready to be thrust upwards into the flesh of yet another man, as ready to kill as I. But this is now and I have but a short spear and shield. Nothing of the glory I lived in, just the grim reality of war.

    I can feel them now. Soft flesh writhing in agony upon my sandals. Stab, block, stab again; years of drilling become as routine as life itself. Not death. I no longer suffer the shock of taking life but the faces still haunt me. The boy next to me is long gone, no more than a mere blood stain before an unrelenting tide of anger and hate. But that is what war is. I know. I have suffered before.

    I can taste them now. Their hot blood welling up inside my mouth. Unless it is my own. I cannot breathe, nor move. The world is fading. The last image I see is of a grand figure, atop a majestic chariot. Her flame red hair burns as the centrepiece of my death. She is their flame and holds their lives. My own has long since left. My own song is ending: I too must now leave.
    Entrant 2 - Dance
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    De vita Iulii Agricolae


    The story of Gnaeus Julius Agricola is far from a simple one. Enduring the trials and tribulations of the difficult life of a military officer, serving abroad as a commander of border legions, and in an often harsh, and inhospitable climate, nothing deterred him from his duties to Rome.

    He quickly ascended up the officer ranks. So brilliant, and influential was he, in his young age, that the governor, Seutonius, made him one of his advisers, during the vile Iceni queen Boudica's rebellion. Even then, at the age of 21, his years of studying military strategies paid off. His knowledge of the natives' would help Britannia's legions to defeat the barbaric mongrels, and put down the rebellion, enshrining permanently his deeds, and solidifying his reputation, throughout the empire.

    It has been over thirty years since that furious battle, along Watling Street. The Iceni hoped to outmaneuver the Romans quickly, and take Londinium, but she failed. It was Agricola who chose the battlefield. The location had every ingredient for perfection. Due to the consistent reliance on overwhelming odds, a commonly seen pattern among the northern barbarian tribes, in which they focused on sheer numbers, over quality of soldiery, it was the suitable location of a forest in the rear, and an open plain in front, which prevented flanks, and ambushes. The location was indeed brilliant. To the slaughter, the barbarian curs flocked. The legions of Seutonius, under direct assistance from Agricola, bound together, creating a continuously growing wall of corpses, until it was impassable by the filthy cretins, who poured upon it, making the clutter of carnage worse. Thousands and thousands had fallen, while the legionnaires suffered so minimally.

    Unable to create a proper breach in the Roman lines, the native Britons lost heart, their fervor obliterated, by the sheer losses they sustained. Their momentum diminished, just as quickly as it was gained, through a series of minor successes.

    This was the battle to end all battles, in this rebellion. The thug queen Boudica, had been defeated. Her armies in shambles, what morsels of reputation they had left, shattered forever more. Having been walloped with such apparent ease, by the mighty armies of Rome, under the subtle command of Agricola, whom simply treated Seutonius as nothing more than a senatorial figurehead, a chief puppet, on the stage that is Britannia. It is Agricola who was the puppeteer, however. It was Agricola who put the native tribes to shame. Who would secure a land, relatively safe now, for future generations. For the Empire.

    Just as was rumored then, it had come true, though years later, many songs have been written. Musicians from all over the Empire paid respects to what had been done on Watling Street. A boost of momentum, for the growing reputation of the legions, as far as away as the second cataract of the Nile. Though songs oft lose their luster, the war song of Gnaeus Julius Agricola, will live on, forever.


    P. Cornelius Tacitus
    Entrant 3 - Audacia
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The withered man repeatedly struck the smoldering iron blade with calculated precision, raising the hammer he held in his hand slowly then throwing it down upon the anvil again and again. The dazzling blaze of the forge cast an orange glow upon his wrinkled face. He sported a homespun tunic and a ragged apron. The man’s gaze never left the blade.

    “Indeed, I was like you. I fought, fought hard. Fought well. I killed. Like a savage,” he growled. “Got tired of it though. Too much. Too much blood. Too much death.” The soldier waiting for his sword shifted uneasily. The old man stopped and looked at his customer. “You know,” he whispered, “I was there. I was there.”

    “I…where,” the soldier stammered in reply. The blade was nearly finished. He longed to leave this bumbling fool.

    “The forest,” said the old man. “I was there when they came…” He could remember it like yesterday.

    ***

    “Formation! Back in formation!” he heard a centurion shout above the chaos and confusion. Arrows whizzed past his head and struck pierced the segmented armor of his cohorts. Steel clashed against steel. Hundreds of warriors continued to emerge from the dark and foreboding forests of Germania shouting bloodcurdling chants and wielding battle axes. Death surrounded the young legionary.

    He heard an animal-like roar behind him and turned to find a barbaricthug swinging a battle axe above his head. The brute’s bare chest had been painted in an intricate geometric pattern. He rushed toward the legionary and delivered a deadly blow to the side of his head. The young soldier spun to the ground. A shroud of darkness came upon him and his mind began to slow. The din of battle faded. “This is the end,” he thought with resignation. All went black.

    Light finally breached the darkest depths of his mind. He slowly opened his eyes. The forest was silent save for the sorrowful song of a distant lark. Butchered corpses were strewn about the path upon which three Roman legions had once walked. His nostrils flared at the pungent smell of rotting flesh. He raised his hand to the side of his head and felt a large gash from which sticky blood seeped. The wound was deep, but he had survived the carnage. He had survived.

    ***

    “And now,” grumbled the old man, “I am here. Better to have died than to suffer each and every day through the memory of that slaughter.” He lifted the blade off the anvil and plunged it into a bucket of frigid water.

    The soldier stood frozen in shock. “By Jupiter, I wouldn’t have guessed it in a million years,” he said quietly to himself. “You were really…there?”

    The old man handed him the blade. “Use this weapon to kill as many damned Germans as you can,” he instructed gravely. “And indeed, I was. I survived Teutoburg Forest.”

    Entrant 4 - Schrödinger
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Whisht lads, had yez gobs, and I'll sing yez all an awful song
    Of Britishmen in times of yore, before wor kings before wor queens
    When days were short and folks were poor, and nights were awful long
    Of lads knew nor right nor wrong, and whose folk loved awful things

    It was a time of blood and beer, and also of iron and fear
    Our lads would go out and fight, in those brief hours of light
    Come back by even for their ale, and to victory they would hail, hail!
    Golden times were round our fire, but every man knew himself a liar

    With painted skin and painted soul, our victories were never whole
    Men we seemed but truth were not, this knowledge lead to our rot
    Barbaric thug! Such a heady ideal, something we yearned to feel
    But though our strength seemed firm, in truth it came from the worm.

    Great big teeth and a great big gob and great big goggly eyes
    A scaly brute, a fearsome beast, nursery rhymes are no lies
    He ate our sheep and he ate our lambs and he ate all of our calves
    He took the lord of our land and snapped him into two halves

    But there was one among us, who swore to do more than solely cuss
    And one day he took ten and went, up to the worms' dread sulphrous vent
    To make treaty to our mortal fear, knowing to death he was mortal near
    None expected our men to return, for the worm did love to make meat burn

    What happened there did seem great, seemed until it was too late
    The worm did nod and sagely say, that peace had a price to pay
    He would have us bring him our enemies, to do with as he please
    Two score a moon, became our greatest boon

    For if we did not bring our kills, upon us the worm would wreck great ills
    Instead we took two score men a month, and watched the worm crunch and grunth
    And rip and tear and gobble and wolf and worm and devour and chow and gnaw
    Their bones a litter that scattered, in a deadliest deadest pattern

    It was a time of blood and beer, and also of iron and fear
    Our lads would come home and fight, in those long hours of night
    Not to watch those limp bodies flail, hear the live meals wail, wail!
    But none could say around our fire, and every man knew himself a liar.

    On our souls this truth did leech, until one day a man could breach
    The truth between worm and man, as none had thought he can
    But my bairns 'tis another tale, instead hear again the deathly wail
    Of dead men dying for another's fear, in a time most exceedingly queer.
    Entrant 5 - Marshall of France
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Hadrian's Wall

    The blue painted warrior looked into the distance. The wall stood there like a great barrier stopping them from progressing any further. The Romans had come to his village and took his children away, raping his own wife as he stood there helpless, being made to watch.There stood the Roman sentries watching. Not expecting anything different they turned their heads the other way. ''Son of Osglric '',said a second warrior behind him. Osglric turned towards him. ''What? When will we attack?''
    '' Play the tune, then we attack.'' He ordered. The bards began singing from their golden instruments playing the horns. A loud music blared from the forest. The sentries dismissed it. The thugs began repeating in a pattern, while barbaric sounds were incoming quickly.
    A rhythmic pattern began to overcome the silence of the atmosphere. Shields clanged together, war cries were driven with hatred and anger, Osglric, their leader encouraging them on forwards. A few bowmen fired the signal. Out of nowhere a large band of blue painted warriors charged onto the walls, not because they were barbaric, but for their revenge. They attacked, breaching the walls using ladders. They soon drove further and further, cutting down any Romans they saw them into. Then they stopped. They saw a Roman Legion pointing their javelins at them. The centurion called our his orders. Osglric, holding his sword and shield gritted his teeth in frustration. He saw his men being cut down by the elite of the Roman Army. He roared, and led his men to their final destination. Death.
    Entrant 6 - algirdasu
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    „There is a breach in the gate!“ – I shouted with all the might my lungs could muster. For the whole world needed to hear the news of this dreadful moment.

    But all was not yet lost. Oh no. Without delay, giving only a moment for thoughts, I grabbed my wooden shield with blue paint on it. Swirling in awkward shapes but in an obvious pattern it decorated this old friend, who protects me from harm in tricky situations.

    Speaking of paint, I myself was wearing some. Blue war paint, for it is the color of war. And we are at war, make no mistake in that. The enemy swarms through the gates each time we let up, giving us no time to catch our breaths, no time to rest. An endless fight, until we fall to exhaustion. How vile and cowardly indeed.

    Once the shield was within the firm grasp of my left hand, I drew my trusted sword with my left and charged to battle. Let blood be spilled.
    Preferably the enemy blood.

    On my way to the gates I passed my people, for whom I spill blood to protect. With frightened eyes they watch me leave – their last hope for peace and salvation.

    „My! How barbaric!“ – A woman gasped at the sight.

    „What is that thug doing? Running around naked? Some sort of costplay?“ – A skinny looking man said to his friend, taking comfort in bashful words. No capable warriors those two.

    What do they understand? A true warrior needs no armor, for it only slows down the movements. All I need is my loincloth, so that the enemy would not get distracted by my overly large manhood.
    On second thought, if I live through this day, I shall loose that as well. A distracted enemy is a dead enemy after all.

    Finally I reach my destination – the southern wall of our settlement, made out of see-through material with thin doors that open inward every time the enemy moves in. A lousy defense, for it invited all who see fit to enter. And this time they come in numbers – 10 grown-men, dressed in dark blue, with bright stars on their chests, wielding black sticks that bring only numbness and pain. But I did not hesitate, a true warrior fights even against terrible odds.

    It took only a minute, but soon I found myself on the ground, with my arms twisted behind my back, claws of cold steel closing on my wrists. Sword and shield no longer in my grasp. I am defeated. Forgive me my people, for I travel to Valhala sooner than expected.

    “Bloody lunatic”- One of the victorious enemy warriors said.

    But I fear not death, for I know that at least one song will be written to honor my name and I shall forever be remembered as the warrior that fought until the end.

    Farewell.


    TotW 178 - Scotland
    haggis, cold, freedom, whiskey, loch
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Ybbon
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Scotland – The Bare Truth

    “You can prise the mighty Haggis from my cold dead hands, you Sassenach witch!” Caractacus Pyke held the haggis in his left hand high behind him, and with his right waved his sword in a manner he thought extremely menacing – though a little dashing as well - at the dummy he had set up in front of himself and although the dummy was not particularly threatening he was very pleased with the cut-out face of Venus Jones he had attached to the head. With a final shouted roar he launched himself at the dummy and swung his iron bar which was in reality all his sword was, in a mighty sweep to decapitate the dummy.

    The whole manoeuvre was watched by Venus sitting further along on a large boulder, a large volume on “Advanced AI Algorithms for the Manipulation of Time Vortices” balanced precariously beside her. “He’s going to make a fool of himself any second, well more of a fool anyway” she said to the little balding man beside her, “it is inevitable, why he wants to create Braveheart I have no idea, but it is not going to end well”, the man agreed with her.

    They both looked up as with the loudest yelp yet, Caractacus made a final two handed attempt to knock the dummy’s head off – “Freedom…. Oh shite, Nooooo”, his triumphant quotation trailed off into a frantic squeal as the iron bar swung round, over-balanced him and sent him tumbling past the dummy and over the edge of the hill, legs and arms flailing he disappeared away from them with a frantic squeal.

    Venus and Mr Solomon looked at each other and burst into peals of laughter as the skinny white legs tumbled away. “When you have finished, I could do with a hand”, the faint voice just reached them and picking themselves up they wandered towards the edge and looked over. The view of the loch down the valley was fabulous with the sun just setting behind the mountains leaving a golden path across the water and setting a roseate glow on the snow caps above. Which was more than can be said for the view of the roseate cheeks of Caractacus below as he hung upside down in a gorse bush which was unfortunate given his re-enactment had included the kilt as well as the sword.

    “Mr Solomon, I am going to need a very stiff Whisky after that view!” Venus looked away quickly although she was certain that she would now never forget no matter how hard she tried. “Indeed, Miss Jones, a most unedifying spectacle. Now, Mr Pyke, let’s get you up and back to the ship, a good tot for you as well hmm? Oh and Mt Pyke, next time, try to be a little less authentic as to what a Scotsman wears under his kilt yes?
    Entrant 2 - Dude with the Food
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    “…but they will never take our freedom!” He charged, sword flashing through his enemy. His foe lay dead around the blur that was William Wallace. Each accursed Englishman was slain and fell before the terrible onslaught.

    “Look at him out there. Isn’t he so cute flailing around with his little sword and his little shield?”
    “Leave him be, you’re the one who showed him that film.”
    “It is a classic, it’s about time he saw it, especially since we’re up here – explorin’ th’ highlands.”
    The both fell back laughing, the whiskey finally starting to take effect. They had gone to visit the Loch Ness as a birthday present for their son, Harry and were stopping off near Fort William. He’d been thoroughly disappointed to miss the monster (it was just a bit shy) and had also had a let-down with his birthday dinner. Haggis. He’d still got chicken like he had asked but it wasn’t the same being served second. However, after seeing Braveheart and getting a new sword (as if set up together) he had decided it was his best birthday ever – even if a tad cold. And he hadn’t even got things off his Grandma yet.

    She lived in an old cottage in a small village on the road south. Her husband had died before Harry was born but she managed. Her friends in the village helped her get by though Harry wasn’t completely sure they even existed. He had never seen anybody while visiting her. He didn’t mind though, she was happy and always made him shortbread when he visited – as “a Scottie cure fur bein’ a wee bit actife.” It was nice shortbread too, he always remembered that. In fact, it had become his favourite pudding, unlike the usual cakes and sweets common for boys his age.

    Even the most noble of warriors may become vanquished through the evil in this world. Even the greatest of champions, who do nothing but fight for all that is good. Even the heroes of men, the rare legends that fade into myth. Even William Wallace. He lay panting on the grass, his blood surrounding him. Yet he stayed strong enough once more, one more word with which to depart from this world. “Frrreeeeeeeeedddooommm!!!” Then he lay still, his last breath all but spent.
    His world shattered.
    “That’s all out of order. You aren’t supposed to die yet! Weren’t you watching the same film I was?”
    Entrant 3 - Schrödinger
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    An Ode to Glasgow or The One Minute of Summer or Cold

    Glasgow. Jewel of the Clyde. A river it bestrides like a dead horse bestrides a ribeye. A shortbread tin, well-rusted and tobacco-stained, drifts down lethargic eddies on the great river's brown-encrusted back. In the hills barely visible in the distance, Sassenachs and Yankees wildly hunted haggis up hill, down dale, in glen and under loch.

    Fat Stan the Van Man wobbled down from the chip shop to his tenement, proud king of the pudding race, whiskey-reddened cheeks puffed out against the biting breeze. Air particles wailed in protest at his passing. A poster of an oat-swilling man in a kilt throwing balls at an eternal sunset peeled and faded under sodium's abrasive chapped kiss. Fat Stan scratched at his itchy tit, enjoying life's sweet freedom, and moved on with his life.

    The rain-kissed city grew rain-freckle puddles which you could hear being sucked away as the precipitation abated in that eerie moment the Scottish waited for all year. Fat Stan stopped in his tracks and some moments later his belly stopped too. This took a large portion of summer. The evening spread out like a blanket on a field as a cool breeze suffused the city. Fat Stan's jowls wobbled with the smile of a man who knows what he likes.

    It began to rain and didn't stop until next mid-July.
    Entrant 4 - Dance
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    June 3, 1871
    Northwestern Shoreline, Lake Corydon
    Corydon, Iowa, United States


    It was early morning, on the third of June, 1871. Members of the James-Younger gang were stirring throughout the camp. The camp was situated inside a small clearing, surrounded on it’s perimeter by thick bush, along the north shore of the lake.

    Jesse headed over to the burnt out campfire, where he seated himself beside fellow gang member, Clell Miller, as the two began to break their fast on onion soup, while conversing with one another. Seeing this, Charlie Pitts, a childhood friend of the James brothers, and longtime member of the gang, saw this as an opportune moment to introduce his immigrant cousin, and a gang hopeful, pending his test in the upcoming bank robbery. Charlie and his cousin seated themselves opposite Jesse, and Clell.

    “Mornin’ Jess,” Charlie said, as vivaciously as ever.

    Jesse nodded his head in acknowledgement. He had clearly not been in the best of mood that morning.

    Charlie cleared his throat, looking to his companion, “this is my cousin, John McCoy. He fled British justice. He’s looking to join up with us, as cold as they come. He’s a rebel true and true.”

    Jesse scoffed at the idea, and took another spoonful of soup, as a smile crept up the side of his face.

    “I’m serious, Jess, he’s a hard worker. Fought in Ireland against the British. Has'brass to kill a man, I tells ya.”

    “Is that so,” Jesse said, amused. “Tell me, John, you ever been in a shootout?”

    John let out a belch before speaking, “I used a gun before, would use one again, lad.”

    Jesse leaned in, and sniffed the air, “your first mistake. You can’t bring a bottle of whiskey, and not share it,” he let a roar of laughter out. They all seemed to find the comment comical.

    John smiled, but kept on the topic, “I’m in this for the money, same is all you. For a hundred dollars, I would strip naked, and swim across that there loch, to get away from them Yankee scum,” he said jokingly, motioning towards the nearby lake.

    “It’s more than the money. It’s principle too, Scotsman.” Jesse said, clearly annoyed.

    John, embarrassed by his own comment, attempted to change the subject. “You know what this soup could use? A side of haggis. That would be one mean meal, I tell ya.”

    “Think you got the mettle for banditry, does ya? You’d be willing to risk freedom, and even your life? We shall find out, soon enough.” Jesse stood up, “enough grub. Let’s get a move on.”

    The bandits had broken their fast, and fastened their horses. They broke camp, mounted up, and rode out, shortly thereafter, for the nearby Central Iowa Holdings Bank, in Corydon. This would be John McCoy’s first test.
    Entrant 5 - Confederate Jeb
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Scotch whiskey and haggis, my favorite supper. People who lived around around the loch liked their fish and chips, but not me. I can't stand the taste of fish, yet these whelps ate it for every meal of every day. Downright sickening, it is. It was a modern invention, nothing particularly Scottish about it. Nothing particularly Scottish about anything in these parts. I remember the stories of my great-grandfather, who remembered the years of peace and quiet and contentment. In the warmer months he and the members of the clan would go out swimming in the cold waters, or relax on the shore. The nights were spent sleeping under the stars, listening to the quiet noise of nature. How I long to have lived in those days. But now people pilot their boats and...what are they called? Jetskis, that's them. Boats and jetskis all day every day. Never a moment of freedom from the noise and the screaming and shouting from locals and tourists alike. The tourists got me the most. They came from all corners of America, acted like they owned the place, and eating those darned fish and chips. Clearly I was born in the wrong era, into the wrong generation. I'm stuck in the twenty-first century with the most un-Scottish bunch of whelps that a man could ever lay his eyes on. Shameful pansies, weak as Englishmen, with no knowledge about their people or anything. Don't even know our capital! Or who Robert Burns is, let alone know about haggis. It's downright appealing that a true Scotsman has to celebrate a Burns supper all by himself, but here I am piping the haggis to the table, giving a truly fierce welcoming speech to myself. Course, the response from the lassies was a bit weak, with nobody around to give it. Last year I thought I found a fellow Scotsman in this seeming wilderness. He knew his stuff to, but when it came time for the test he failed miserably. He didn't like haggis. No true Scotsman dislikes haggis. That whole thing made me downright depressed. I'm starting to think that the Scottish traditions at this loch will die with me.

    Stupid Loch Lomond, Arkansas. Nothing Scottish about it at all.


    TotW 179 - Classy Girls
    flowers, bar, care, dead, parade
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Confederate Jeb
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Down the street goes a parade of mistakes. Flowers lay gently on caskets bearing the flag of the each content's origin. People line the sidewalks; wives weeping aloud, mothers and fathers crying softly, children unsure of the world's pains. I stand on the second story balcony of the Tipsy Waitress Bar, a cheap but good little hole in the wall, watching the dead pass me by. I don't mean that in a profound way either. The spirits of the deceased soldiers sit on top of the caskets, invisible to all but myself, looking dispirited (pardon the pun) and forlorn. The dead really do have a terrible lot. Growing tired of the melancholy scene, I retreat inside to grab the latest concoction of the young bartender.

    "I feel so sorry for those families out there. I remember losing my father when I was young. He served in the Vietnam War." The happy face of the girl is clearly a facade; she knows that pain. She's even feeling it right now. Why can't I relate? Why don't I care?

    "It is truly tragedy in motion." I reply sullenly, putting a few dollars onto the counter to pay for the pumpkin spice whiskey...cocktail...thing. I must want to join the soldiers in the caskets, but I perform my duty and hold down the abomination she called a drink. It wasn't that I enjoyed her company, though I suppose her presence was the closest I ever came to feeling happy. Her miserable talent at creating new ales was only matched by her burning devotion to try again and again. I think I admire that, or whatever my version of admiration is.

    Out of the corner of my eye I spy Robert McClain walking up the stairs, his heart heavy and his body in need of alcohol. Since it is a Tuesday, I am the one to start our conversation of the day.

    "Afternoon Bob."

    "Afternoon. Sweetie, mind giving me the heavy stuff? Today hasn't been working out in my favor." The bartender nods understandingly, and goes to fetch Robert's order.

    "The job search not as fateful as you had hoped?"

    "Oh can your talk of fate. I found a job last week, didn't I tell you?"

    "Might have, my memory hasn't been so good as of late."

    "Too busy watching ghosts and contemplating the meaning of death to remember the words being said to you."

    "You know me too well."

    "Go die."

    "I'd try, but death doesn't seem to like me."

    "Nor does life, considering your emotionless soul you husk of a body carries around."

    "Duly noted." I pause to let Robert effortlessly drain the drink just presented before him. "Listen, something's stirring up the spirits in the graveyard off Avett Road. You up for an excursion tonight?"

    Robert's smiles at the thought of "killing" ghosts. "Seems like a night well spent. Try to contain your excitement."

    "You know I don't have emotions Bob." I say with a smirk. "But maybe some day."
    Entrant 2 - Dude with the Food
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Worse places to be in Rio. I’ve seen the slums, and what happens to the non-locals there – not pretty. This carnival’s alright though, plenty of everything to see. These Brazilians seem to care a lot about their parades, much more than I ever could. It’s lucky that’s not why I’m here, no way. Here on an ‘errand’ you might call it. Emphasis is on might there. You might also call it illegal or trouble-making but that’s up to you. For me, it is a job and I take pride in that opinion. I job caused by petty squabbles of classy girls but a job all the same. The target will arrive soon.

    I can afford a quick drink in this local. This whole Latin type of bar can’t compete with the good ol’ pubs back home but the drinks still give a good kick. Some of these are probably worse than some of the ‘medicines’ I use. Can’t be much in it. First time in Buenos Aires I blinded myself in a place like this, headache wouldn’t leave for three weeks. Still managed the shot though, never missed yet. Ever.
    Some people are born to think. Others - to do.
    I was born to kill.
    Ever since my father died in a terrorist attack, I wanted to fight. My own war, not the governments, against those who wronged me. Until I found out I was good – and people pay well for that standard of result. Now I have nice thing going, get to travel the world, see the sights and I’m nothing but a tourist. Nobody suspects me. I’m everywhere, too many alibis. Can never be too sure. Also helps that I never kill anyone I’ve ever met or have anything to do with. Anybody like that I wanted dead are dead. It’s easier that way.

    All I need to do here is just plant a package under a float. The hardest part will be getting away. Normally, I’d be several blocks away behind a focused lens but that would be inconsiderate to all the people who turned out for this carnival. No, I can just create a miniature explosion – not enough to injure people but enough to cause a little damage to the van. After that, everything falls into place. The victim leaves the float.
    She proceeds to fuss before exiting down an alley to meet here sister in another part of the city.
    I step behind a little schoolboy knife work will be enough.
    Could do this in my sleep if I knew the city. And if I wasn’t here. Rio’s hardly notorious for being completely tourist friendly. Especially during the festivities. Here it comes, a giant peacock with flaming dancers on top. Target has been seen. What has been seen, cannot be unseen.
    Entrant 3 - Schrödinger
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The Care Bear Dead Parade crawled past the Bar.
    Flowers didn't care for the bears but paraded anyway.
    Flowers cared for classy girls but hated to walk so far.
    Flowers walked this parade for the girls at the end of the day.

    Flowers was a man of simple pleasures.
    Flowers wrote love songs for girls.
    Flowers did nothing by half measures.
    Flowers really liked classy girls.

    He liked the girls with bottle-blonde hair.
    He liked the girls with hair black like night.
    He liked the girls who'd do it for a dare.
    He liked the girls who saw him as a fight.

    The Care Bear Dead Parade turned at the corner.
    Among them was not a single true mourner.
    Know now the truth of the Care Bear Dead Parade.
    Every man their had simple lust for a maid.

    Flowers particularly wanted a raven-haired one.
    Flowers strode with a strut in his step.
    Flowers knew the flower of his youth had gone.
    Flowers knew old age upon him crept.

    The Care Bear Dead Parade had begun in '69.
    Men in their twenties had taken to the streets.
    Their hearts and soul they had put on the line.
    And afterwards had drunk and had boasted of feats.

    The Care Bear Dead Parade was such a sham.
    Flowers knew it and he knew the girls knew it.
    But every year he did it in search of a madam.
    The falseness grew his grin made his teeth grit.
    But Flowers marched for his life was a piece of...
    Entrant 4 - Agent Miles
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    A patch of beautiful spring flowers were crushed beneath a spit-shined boot as Sergeant Bambi Boinker exited the attack helicopter. She was determined to own this LZ the same way she had owned every bar where she had pole danced. A picture of Bambi's group of strippers, the "Classy Girls", was in her rucksack. With precise care she positioned her machinegun team. Motioning with her arm, she yelled over the whine of the rotors, "Down that road is your final protective fire line. Whatever comes that way, ends up dead. Got it?" The men gave the thumbs up sign and she moved to the next team.

    Private Horn whistled as Bambi approached and he asked with his typical sarcasm, "Sarge, will you marry me?"

    Jets flew over as Sergeant Boinker quickly instructed Horn in the detailed process he should follow to mate with himself and she added, "I don't give a crap if you were a Captain before the General caught you with his daughter. Your tail is mine now, Private. You give me any more lip and I'll bust yours. Now move out, you're point man."

    Bambi checked the other soldiers, but couldn't help thinking about Horn. His kind were nothing but trouble. It's just that he gave her an itch that she couldn't quite scratch. She glanced at Horn's lean physique one more time and smiled. On the next R&R, she had a celebration planned for him that wouldn't involve a parade.

  4. #44

    Default Re: TotW Story Index

    TotW 180 - Tornado
    metal, wood, fire, water, earth
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Dude with the Food
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Nobody remembers,
    Nobody sees.
    Nobody listens to the whispers of these.

    These are the rocks.
    These are the trees.
    These are the clouds and the gales and breeze.

    The breeze speaks to ye.
    The breeze speaks to I.
    But never we listen, I ask you now.
    Why?

    A hearer is fire,
    She hears the sound.
    Sounds of the wind, high above ground.

    Water heeds too.
    He listens from deep,
    And also from shallow, he’s never asleep.

    The wood from the Earth
    Also observes
    And secrets of old, all trees preserve.

    Though deep underground,
    And far out of view,
    Metals do mutter for truth pushes through.

    Solely the wisest,
    Fresh air knows all.
    Every sound, every sight. Whether largest or small.

    So I ask you now,
    Have you ever heard?
    Or are you like most, just murky and blurred?

    Murky like mud?
    Blurred like a mire?
    Unalike air, metal, wood, water, fire?

    If only you listen
    To what you need hear
    Nothing of value shall enter your ear.

    If only you see
    A rainbow of colour,
    A myriad more, you shall never discover.

    If only you care
    For the knowledge you get
    You shall only remember how to forget.

    You shall never become
    Enlightened or wise.
    You shall know never secrets, but only the lies.
    Entrant 2 - Pope Gregorius I
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Centurion Ioannes Ignatius Bonafacius of the First Cohort, Legio I Minerva, poured the last of the water out of the skin canteen into the dry mouth of his dying aquilifer. Varus was a good soldier, more than that he was a good man, one whom the men would dash into any conflict or any obstacle be it Gauls, Macedonians, or Spartans to defend and protect, the eagle standard he bore almost always a secondary thought. It was said Jove loved him especially, for in the last battle against the Sons of Alexander lightning had struck him and he was en-wreathed in flame. He did not perish but rather charged forward still and brought the fire of the god into the enemy line. This extraordinary display was credited with the victory that day by the general Lucius Cornelius Scipio. The legion had won the victory that effectively pushed Macedon out Greece for good, making Thessalonica safe from their threat once and for all. But on the return journey home, their auxilia miles ahead of them, that Fortuna turned her gaze from the Minerva. The Kingdom of Pergamum a long ally of Rome now saw its opportunity for expansion into Thrace, and without warning had effectively split its far more numerous forces and surrounded the Minerva in its line of march. That morning they had closed in.
    Now, with the sun high in the sky, the battle raged on in the plains. The legion, taken completely by surprise, had deployed in a rough octagonal with the first cohort in the center with the eagle and with the general. At first they had held and the lighter Pergamenian spearmen were worn down.

    But then the cataphracts had come…

    And the line had broke….

    And the eagle was threatened…

    General Scipio with that beautiful ring of metal drew his gladius and led his guard against the heavy cavalry. The charge sent the cataphracts reeling backward but the general’s life was the price, and the legion tightened its circle. Fresh cataphracts charged the third cohort, directly opposite the last charge, and the circle broke again. The third cohort was churned into the mud by the heavy hooves which crushed skulls and helmets, and splintered wooden shields in one grinding procession. Ioannes didn’t think, but acted and with one word sent the whole First Cohort against the onslaught. Ioannes hacked at horse-leg then thrust into the cataphract’s neck. He yanked a man off his horse and brought his shield crashing down on the man’s back. It was then he looked up and saw Varus, a spear through his side lying just behind the line...

    …as Varus gulped the last of the water he choked out, “Now you have room for the victory wine tonight, make sure you fill one for me.” With those words he turned and embraced the earth as his last bed.

    Ioannes took up the eagle and dashed in again, the circle shrunk in completely and the last stand lived on in song.
    Entrant 3 - Marvzilla
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    "Perfection !" She pleads.

    She spins. She spins. She spins around.

    Balancing her whole weight on her toes. The lights flickering around her.
    Then she stops. Sweat running down her back. Her whole body moist.
    She looks in the great mirror. Her red eyes starring back. She turns.

    "Not perfect !" she hisses.

    She spins. She spins. She spins around.

    Her feet swollen. A aching pain in her ankle. She falls. A loud thud.
    The floor made out of wood. The music goes on. She stands up.

    "Why ?" She begs.

    She spins. She spins. She spins around.

    Water in her eyes. Deep black lines adorning them. They burn like fire. A tear
    curling down. No sleep. Only practice. Her grip around the pole. Made out of metal.
    The mirror consums her. A birthmale on her cheek. Coloured like earth. She scratches.

    "Ugly !" She spits.

    She spins. She spins. She spins around.

    "Faster !" She demands.

    She spins. She spins. She spins around.

    Blood shooting up her head. The big hall deforms into a dark mass.
    Everything is blurry. Her tutu waving with every turn. She cries.

    "Faster !" She shouts.

    She spins. She spins. She spins around.

    Her brown hair flies. A broad smile on her face. Every turn becomes
    faster. A mass of light and dark. The hall is no more. Overture. She laughs.

    "Perfection !"

    Darkness. Cold darkness. She spins no more.

    She is perfect.
    Entrant 4 - Agent Miles
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    "You don't know, Jack?" Ginger asked as the Professor scratched his head. Nervously gulping down a glass of water, he seemed puzzled by the implications of her inquiry.

    "Throughout history, man has created tools from bone, flint, wood, metal, plastic and now metamaterials. Each tool has increased our control over the Earth and eventually the universe around us," the Professor explained. Jack fumbled with the controls and replied, "Hush now, sweet Ginger, my mind is ablaze with the possibilities of this new technique. My very creative process is on fire.

    Ginger winked as a trickle of sweat formed on her brow and added, "Oh yes, I can feel the heat, Jackie boy!"

    The apparatus continued to hum rhythmically as its parts swayed to and fro. Ginger's gaze followed the motion until she began to feel a little giddy. She decided to close her eyes and just relax. Her ruby lips parted and her cat like tongue swished deftly from one corner of her luscious mouth to the other.

    The Professor was back in control now. He labored feverishly to reach some kind of ultimate goal. Ginger loved this about the Professor. However, he wasn't selfish. She knew that he would share the ecstacy of this moment with her. Yes, indeed he would.

    The device struggled with ever more power. Suddenly, everything came together at once in a great crescendo as Jack exclaimed, "Yes, yes that's it!" He reached into his lab coat and pulled out a cigarette.

    Ginger's eyes opened wide as she asked, "That's what? What happened?"

    Jack took a long puff and pointed out the window as he replied, "Look for yourself. The world's first man-made tornado. Why imagine the applications in the tourist industry."

    "Oh great!" Ginger stuck a pair of D-cell batteries into her pocket and added, "I'll be in the ladies room...freshening up."
    Entrant 5 - The Forgotten
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Flames danced, twirling and kissing the stick Taaun held in his hands. Eventually the stick caught, and the boy hurriedly dashed it into the blaze. Not to be put off though, Taaun ran to get another stick.

    His mother gave an audible sigh as the child dashed by. She had told him countless times to stay away but he never paid her much mind. Punishment would do nothing to curb his curiosity so she waited. Eventually the boy’s folly would lead to a burnt thumb and hopefully, some wisdom.

    Shaking her head, Manthera returned to her previous task of beating the dirt off the wagon’s cover. The long days spent trekking the vast plain with the caravan showed that dirt and grit could get anywhere. “Hmmph!” the mother grunted as she gave it one last thump. Manthera had only just begun to admire her handiwork when she heard a yelp pierce the bustle of the caravan.

    Manthera knew what it was before she even rounded the corner, and sure enough she found Taaun with his thumb in his mouth, eyeing the blaze warily. “What did I tell you? Play with fire and you will get burned. Now come here and quit whimpering like a babe.”

    Taaun did as she commanded but was too embarrassed to meet her stern gaze. She was right, as always, but he was too stubborn to admit it. Instead he continued to stare at the dancing flames. Finally the dark skinned child looked to his mother.

    “What is Fire?”

    Taken aback, Manthera met her precious son’s brown eyes. “Fire,” she began, “Is the light of Him. He made it just for us, so that His children could feel His heavenly warmth and stay alive. He also gave each of His beloved a spark of Fire in our hearts. It is always there, an ember waiting to be fed and brought alive. We call anger. It can roar to life with just a little food, and if fed more, can kill. Deny your anger food, and it will die, just as our fire would without wood. You must keep your anger in check lest it consume you.”

    “Why would he give us something so dangerous though?” Taaun’s face looked confused and sad.

    “You must know that with Fire came Water. Water keeps Fire in check even as gentleness and happiness can keep anger in check. Both Fire and Water are volatile though. Ever changing and ever shifting. That is why He added a third – Earth. Earth tempers our souls just as a blacksmith might temper his metal. Earth is not like the others. It is there to ground us. All three are needed to keep balance and order.” After a pause she added “Is that enough to satisfy you my dear?”

    Taaun gave a thoughtful nod but remained sitting. When Manthera finally got up he had yet to move a muscle. Taaun sat there, with a curious and ponderous look in his eye.


    TotW 181 - Farewell
    honor, injustice, night, smoke, shell
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - MuttonChops
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Bellevue Hospital, New York, New York – Psychiatric Ward. 2:23 PM

    “Like warriors of the night I saw them. I swear I saw them. Stalking me, with beady green eyes, their rainbow complexion gleaming against my flashlight. They weren’t af..afraid. They just stood there and watched me. Why don’t you believe me. They’re coming to get me!”
    “Yes, Mr. Sanders. The doctor is coming, now why don’t you take your medicine, like you always do. You’ll feel better, much better” said the Nurse in the blue scrubs.

    Room 341. Take away the rusty bed pan, and its appearance will probably bore you to death, but we’re not interested in the scenery; with its tattered cream
    shell wallpaper and its old rickety spring bed. No, we’re here for the old man in the medical gown cowering in fear behind his sheets. Yes, we want the Veteran.

    “Yeah, I’ll be right there. Alright nurse what seems to be the problem here?” said the doctor as he entered the room. His clipboard pushed towards his thick glasses, looking for Mr. Sanders’ files.
    “Here we are, Sanders J. 61. Caucasian male. Single. War Veteran. Former Marine…”
    “I’m still a Marine!” interjected Mr. Sanders from underneath his sheets. The old man despite his age was still sharp.
    “Apologies. So Nurse, what's wrong?” asked the doctor
    “What can I say Dr. Chen. Mr. Sanders refuses to take his medicine, says he needs to be ‘clear of mind for an impending attack’ or something. I’ve got other patients to look after, but he just won’t listen, he got very violent when I went near him. Look” The nurse proceeds to show the doctor her arm which showed a bruise mark, probably from being twisted.
    “Ouch, alright. You go on and get that checked I’ll handle things from here” said the doctor as the Nurse left the room
    “What’s wrong Jack. Old memories bothering you?”
    “No” replied the veteran
    “Then what is it, I can’t help you if you don’t open up. Look you came here voluntarily and that takes courage. So please, tell me what’s wrong”
    “Gnomes. Honour bound warrior gnomes” uttered the veteran.
    “Gnomes?” replied the perplexed doctor.
    “Well, there’s nothing to be ashamed off, I’m here to hel-” Without warning the Doctor’s mouth contorted in pain. Blood spilled from his mouth as an energy sword slashed through his stomach.
    “No!” shouted the Veteran, as canisters of smoke bombs exploded in the small room; quickly filling the tiny space in darkness.
    “Come out. That man was harmless. I will not let this injustice go unpunished!” shouted the Veteran as the silhouette of three warrior gnome appeared from the darkness with their shimmering swords drawn for battle.

    Live from planet Earth. Welcome to another episode of ‘Super Fun Human Fighting Game’. Place your bets. Will the Veteran defeat our robot assassins, or prevail once more…

    Entrant 2 - Dude with the Food
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    A blare. Await. Absolute bedlam.
    That’s all there is to shelling. That and keep your head down if you want to jolly well keep it there. Flesh isn’t the strongest of substances, I tell you. I’d say it will be hastily approaching what you might call daybreak. In the focus of preserving spirits as high as is remotely possible, I shall proceed to wholeheartedly agree with you. Over the top you see, isn’t it? Getting over there giving the old Jerry a good thrashing after a fine French night. You could gaze upon the stars earlier, possibly still if those damned guns didn’t release such a frightful smoke. Not even the decency to allow us our own vision.

    “Hanz! Erhalten Sie unten von dort! Hanz? Hanz?”
    A blare. Await. Absolute bedlam.
    The chaps here are frightfully depressive. They expect death to fall upon every single one of us but Jones. Apparently his gambling has paid for many a fine evening for him back home on the brighter side of the Channel. Disgraceful, these youths. No respect for decency any more, too busy flaunting their possessions to any poor thing that is unfortunate enough to look upon them. And all they can do now is be silent - when they should be preparing for conflict!

    “Hanz? Was haben sie zu Ihrem Gesicht getan?“
    A blare. Await. Absolute bedlam.
    I see the sun weakly shining over the horizon, its gaze does nothing to warm the lads. Don’t really seem to be up for the honour of fighting for king and country and upholding all that is good in this world. I daresay not nearly eager as they were signing up for this, thought we could march in and back out quicker than the swifts out on the meadows behind my house.

    “Betrachten Sie mich. Bitte. Betrachten mich!”

    A blare. Await. Absolute bedlam.
    Aitkens has just been sick. Not sure where it came from, not eaten properly in a while. My guess is we line up soon, ready to storm the enemy, catch Jerry unawares and all that. It’ll be over before it starts, and the shelling is almost over too.

    “Ich räche Sie, Hanz.”
    A blare. Await. Absolute bedlam.
    Last inspection of equipment. Before the attack we make today. The injustice some of these men show to their superiors. Not Major Clark, they respect him but the generals themselves!

    “Sterben.”

    Await. Absolute bedlam.
    For a surprise attack, they don’t seem to be very surprised.

    Thud. Thud. Thud.
    Each shot echoed in his mind. They killed his brother, a brother he had sworn to protect and he would now kill as many of them as he could. He would have his vengeance.
    That seems an awfully nasty wound I have there. Why can’t I feel the pain…
    Entrant 3 - Dance
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    His inner quarrels vanquished the last vestiges of his tortured soul. Nothing remained, aside from remnants of a bitter acceptance of northern jurisdiction. But still, he presses on, propelled by an unknown force beckoning him to succeed. He viewed it his duty, to fulfill the dreams of his supporters, so that they may live vicariously through him, and his doings.

    What seemed to be an attempt to slight his honour, none might understand the parameters that enhance the complexity of the situation. No meticulously critiqued characterizations of him can be made with just any verbose news articles, without actually the man’s own opinion itself. He would not be unriddled so easily, which has led to his notoriety, and evasion of Unionist justice.

    He oft sits in his rocking chair, on the front porch, gazing into the dark yonder every night’s long yore, wondering. Wondering what would become of him in these dark, perilous, and consistently uncertain times. His days as a bushwhacker were over. Now, he had to resort to bitter banditry, and elusive rebelliousness in the eyes of law enforcement, as opposed to riding with a rebel band of vulgar vigilantes, hunting federals. Now, he was the hunted, much to his dismay.

    He valued himself as a southern bred revolutionary, never yet consulted on the changes imposed upon the south by the aggressive, and repressive Unionist north. Most post war Confederate-aligned partisans viewed these impositions as nothing more than an oppressive farce. An absurd injustice of the well known, and widely accepted laws of the south. It was this common belief, among post war Confederates, that this was a Unionist provocation to reignite conflict. Conflict, which had already cost them dearly. He would have none of this. He picked apart the bits and pieces of the north's conniving travesties.

    The law had approached from all angles. The Pinkerton Agency, famed as an investigative colossus capable of tracking down an ant in an ant hill could not succeed here. His freedom tarnishes their reputation, daily. The excuse widely proposed, and popularized by Allan Pinkerton, among others, is the shell surrounding the outlaw, and his associates, in Missouri. This smoky enigma is cause for blame, in the north. The valued support rendered to the outlaw, and his band, by Confederate sympathizers throughout Missouri is cause for blame, and a sure catalyst for his bold antics.

    Some fools say he’s just a loose cannon, waiting to be dismantled. Former colleagues see him as the last rebel of the American Civil War. All in the south refer to him as just a misunderstood revolutionary whose war never ended. Meanwhile, in the north, they see him as a plague upon them. They seem him as a rough spun outlaw, a downright scoundrel, requiring a swift purge from this life. One thing they can all agree on, that when the smoke clears, all will know him as the notorious Jesse James.
    Entrant 4 - The Forgotten
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Dear Sarah,

    I don’t know when you will get this letter, but if you do, then it means I will be gone. I know I will have hurt you, and I don’t mean for this to be an excuse. Life will be hard but I know you can make it. You are the strongest woman I have ever met by far, but the pain that I’ve caused will never leave – although it will diminish. I could not do you the injustice that would be to stay. To deprive us both of a heartless relationship. Even though my honour is stained, I think this is the right choice.

    The truth of why I left is that I never loved you. I never planned on leaving this way, but I have found a girl that I can truly be happy with and I can’t continue lying to her like this. Please take care of little Will. I only regret that he will never have the father that he deserves. Tell him that I love him, and give the boy my pocketknife – the one that belonged to my grandfather.
    Farewell,
    John.


    The tears streamed down Sarah’s face as she put the letter down. Unable to take it the single mom hid her face in her arms and sobbed. Not a day had passed in those two months since John had left that Sarah didn’t think about him. Didn’t curse his name and then plead for him to come back. When when she had finally built up the courage to clean out his stuff and found this letter, she had broken. Now all that remained was a shell. Echoing and reverberating her sadness and despair.

    “Mommy, I’m thirsty.”

    Sarah spun around in her chair, quickly wiping away the tears that welled in her eyes. Tiny Will stood stock still, silhouetted in the dark doorframe. At least the night will hide my tears, she thought sadly. The charade she had kept up for her son vanished like smoke and it was all Sarah could do to not start balling again.

    “Go lay down, I will bring you some water.” Sarah said. Her voice wavering and threating to break.

    “Ok,” Will’s voice piped. “I love you.” With that he disappeared and Sarah heard his soft footsteps patter down the hall. The single mom gave one last shudder and hugged herself. She raised her head to look into the blackness, to exactly where she knew the kitchen knives were. Sarah stared at them for a moment before finally standing up and getting a glass out of the cupboard for water.

    “For Will.”
    Entrant 5 - William the Marshal
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Farewell
    Will tried not to stare at her, but it was a losing battle. It would have been an injustice not to look.The beautiful Turkish girl in the blue coat turned slightly and saw him gaping at her. Giggling, she said something to her friends before waving at him, her eyes sparkling with some emotion - interest? amusement? Tentatively, Will waved back, his heart in his mouth. The girl laughed openly at his timidity and waved again, the weak light of a March sun gleaming on her rich dark hair.With this encouragement, and with his honour now clearly on the line, the protective shell Will kept around his emotions abruptly evaporated and he waved madly back, grinning. The girl in the blue coat smiled warmly and gestured to Will to come onshore. As the ferry's engines began to chur and roar, he snatched his backpack and dashed down the stairs to the lower deck, careening headlong toward the exit. Just as he made it to the door, however, the ferry pulled away and the only way off was shut. Helpless, Will stared out the window at the girl, now waving goodbye, while the chill Bosporus wind cleared away the smoke of Istanbul and the bleak, empty night drew in all around.


    TotW 182 - Ascent
    droplet, sparkle, scythe, messiah, abyss
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Dance
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Josiah had just sold his entire wheat cargo to a local merchant. He was unloading the tightly bound stocks from his small horse drawn cart, when he noticed an unusual commotion, and gathering of people along the withered cobblestone road, along the Via Dolorossa. The line of people along the road was too thick to see what was happening, on the road. Josiah’s curiosity was sparked, so he threw the last stock of wheat down, and took his scythe, which was leaning on the side of his cart, and threw it in the back of his empty cart, and proceeded to investigate the commotion.

    He got to the back of the crowd, and could hear the bystanders screaming obscenities, and cursing an individual. Heave, heave, heave, King of the Jews, they shouted. His curiosity was sparked even more now, and so he pushed his way through the crowd, and finally broke through to the front. There, he saw, down the Via Dolorossa, heading up, towards him, a man, with a cross slung behind his back. At first, he figured it might be a criminal, but then he clued in to what the crowd was calling him. King of the Jews. He heard one man shouting Messiah, Messiah, they cursed him. Here comeths the false Messiah.

    The scorching Judean sun was beating down furiously, by this point. It was high noon, the sun casting few shadows, directly upon the open street. The crowd was working themselves up. But, then he realized, not only were they calling this man such oddities, but he noticed that not all cursed the man. He saw a few women across the road from him weeping, uncontrollably. The heat had begun to cause him to perspire. A droplet of salty sweat rolled down his forehead, along the ridge of his nose, and into the crease where he connected to his face. The droplet guided itself through his mustache, and he felt it climb over his lip, and the salty tear dissolved in his mouth. He used his robe to wipe his eyes, so he could see more clearly.

    The man, carrying the cross, looked up at Josiah, there was an odd sparkle in his eyes. An assuring one. The man looked at him, and his eyes spoke for him. Though the man didn't speak, Josiah understood what he was trying to tell him. That everything will be alright. How could a man be so sure, so positive, given the situation he was in? It was unnatural, his eyes were an open chasm. A mysterious, intellectual abyss, even. Josiah understood there was an endless depth of knowledge in the man. A Roman soldier shoved Josiah back, with his spear, and he fell to the ground. The man never took his eyes of Josiah, but then he passed, and the man was gone, on his way to Calvary.
    Entrant 2 - Shankbot de Bodemloze
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    "Taken from page 665 of The Lord and his Ways...

    A droplet of water.
    A sparkle of fame,
    An abyss of evil,
    A messiah of the sane,

    Death and his scythe,
    War, toil, anguish and strife,
    It all leads to the hell I'm living,
    But trust me when I say that I'm believing,

    In a god, a power, a glory,
    A fable, legend, myth or story,
    They all create that sense of confusion,
    A whisper of anger and malfunction,

    For in the darkness a serpent breeds,
    In the cave, and the hollow of the trees,
    He is a servant of the night,
    Someone mightier than might,

    But they promise to fly down and shine full,
    An angel wields a sword, less tempered than a bull,
    They wield this mighty blade,
    And with it press evil back to whence it was made,


    You see, this poem shows how just one tiny detail, one event, can lead to the so much. We do not know what caused the author to search for the prophecy but he did, and what followed became the bloodiest war ever recorded. Still today, thousands of years on, we wonder if Death did truly appear to the author and granted him his scythe. However we do know that when he reached out for this "scythe" the world's secrets opened up around him - and he didn't know what to do or believe. It is reported Death remained with the author, instructing him what to do and when which could be reference to the 'whisper of anger and malfunction' that the author recorded in Stanza 3. Stanza 4 could be further evidence that the author felt Death's presence in his head. The conflict that ensured only ended when God itself came down with his Legions after reaching out to the author, and fought Death face to face; a battle that ruined the Southern Plains. Evil was driven back, but people like myself still wonder at what cost. Alas the power ('this mighty blade') that God used was lost on that day, and God hasn't interacted with the world since.

    And on that note we will end today's study on the War of Power, I would like your essays on my desk by Monday morning, answering the question 'What were the causes of the War of Power' - a copy of this poem along with A. G. Frivolts close analysis can be collected on your way out, this plus the work we've done over the past week should be more than enough. Next time we'll be looking at what the War of Power did for humanity. Class dismissed."
    Entrant 3 - Dude with the Food
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    A majestic chasm lies in the east. An imperial abyss lies in the west. Endless miles of golden shimmer, stretching far beyond the realm of any Lord, King or Pharaoh filled with the same sand as centuries gone and centuries to come. The same sand lies on the banks of the Nile under the arid farmland as beneath the great palaces at Memphis and Luxor. However strong a man’s presence, he still treads upon the same sand as the poorest farmhand. As humble as sand is, it holds the destructive power of the Gods to those that oppose it.

    Yet sand is but a mere fraction of greatness. True beauty lies in the river itself. The Nile. Every year, both water and sand fight on the river banks and each year, the river grows far beyond its usual width and spills over the land. But today, the crystal blue droplets sparkle far into the distance. It provides as food for everybody, whether he be the greatest advisor or lowest peasant. The Nile is loyal to her followers yet unforgiving to her enemies. She can dry a man to bone or soak the life from another as easily as she feeds and gives fertility to others.

    Yet the final grandeur of this land rises far above the others. Home to all the glory of Osiris Lord of death, every pyramid is a key to the Gods themselves. Made from the sand and borne by the river they are true products of inspiration. Only the gods among men, messiahs to the populations, the Pharaohs; are bestowed the final prestige of sleeping finally inside such grandeur. For years, thousands of labourers have put down sickle and scythe to create such esteemed achievements rising far above insignificant monuments.
    Entrant 4 - William the Marshal
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Ascent
    Centurion Lucilius Caelius sighed as he stretched his sore muscles. Now the camp was properly fortified, he could rest. The barbarians would never fight their way through the camp's sole approach, and no man would be able to come from the abyss below and scale the sheer cliffs that protected the other sides.
    Reach up, grab handhold, pull. Stop and rest on small ledge, panting, watching my smoky breath on the bitingly cold air, droplets of sweat running across the woad on my chest. Settle sword belt comfortably around waist. Rest over; others are climbing again. Reach up...
    Lucilius began to hone his gladius with a veteran's methodical care. He wasn't expecting much trouble with this campaign. The scouts reported that the enemy were little more than a rabble of peasants armed with scythes. They should certainly be easier to defeat than the Judaean rebels he'd cut his teeth on, ready to die for their messiah Bar Kokhba... He shuddered at the memory of the sparkle of bloody steel under the pitiless sun. Best not to remember that, he told himself. Just relax.
    Climbing still, slow and silent. Glare of Roman fires at the top... One last reach up, rocks hard and cold against skin. There. Just below edge of cliff. Look to left, then right. Everyone ready. Grip sword hilt, then draw slowly, blade blackened by smoke. Wait for signal...
    Lucilius frowned as a fire arrow arced through the sky. Suddenly, shouts erupted from the camp's approach. He smiled thinly. Let the stupid barbarians come. They would be cut down before the gates like dogs. This camp was unassailable...
    Signal. Pull myself onto clifftop, shouting to others. Charge toward tents, still shouting. Time to drive them out...
    Lucilius wheeled as more shouts came from behind. He stared, dumbfounded, as barbarians poured over the cliff edge. Somehow, the barbarians had done the impossible - they had climbed the supposedly unscalable cliff. Controlling his fear, Lucilius drew his gladius and shouted for his men. A tide of barbarians rushed toward them. He took a breath to give orders - and then stopped, puzzled. He tried to speak, but no sound came forth, only a choking rush of blood. Confused, Lucilius sank to the ground. As he watched his men being overrun by barbarians, he thought of many things - his family, his comrades, his failure - but one thought rose above the rest: They climbed it. With a massive effort, Lucilius croaked, "They climbed the cliff. The cliff. They climbed-" His words died in a groan as more blood flowed from the gash in his stomach. With his fading sight, he saw a tall young barbarian approach, sword out, sadness in his eyes...
    Pull my sword from the man's throat. Cruel mercy, but the only mercy a Roman gets. Turn away from him, shock and pain mingled on his bloody face. Wipe sword, sheathe it. Try not to pity the dead Roman. No pity for the invaders. Only the sword.
    Entrant 5 - MuttonChops
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The Dream machine. The future of entertainment, declared the five-thousand paged instructional manual. Never mind that, thought Shelby, men don’t read manuals, men just figure things out along the way. With a push of his hand the manual flew off his desk sending it down to Mars. The artificial gravity aiding the descent of the luminous red book, down to the floor of his bio dome. Its bolded warning of: “PLEASE READ THIS, SERIOUSLY PLEASE READ THIS” was ignored by the gentlemen as he left his study. It was hard to imagine that in a decade, man has mastered space travel, a true achievement. Never mind the fact that humanity has also been enslaved by a race of Aliens. He marched across his home with a certain pride, his boots proudly echoing his arrival to his servants, all of whom bowed at the sight of his vestments. Its elaborate alien design informed all of his rank as overseer of the Eastern district of Mars. A power title, that afforded him a life that most humans who toilet in the abyss could only dream of. Like a scythe, his servants, twenty in total parted at his arrival, cowering in submission, their slave collars humming with energy. The sparkle of the collars stole Shelby’s attention as his sight was drawn to the eyes of a slave. A droplet of tear falling from her eyes implored him to help her like some Messiah in the old forbidden books. Shelby ignored her as he entered his personal workshop, the noise of his mechanics working drowned any lingering feeling of shame in his mind. Setting his eyes upon his prize, the mechanics bowed in respect as they showed him the Dream Machine. A gift given to the overseer class by their Alien masters to further placate them. Shelby strapped himself to the machine, engaging its many buttons unaware that it has been sabotaged by his slaves. As his mind entered the virtual world for the first and last time, Shelby's mind turned into mush in a matter of minutes. The revolution had begun.


    TotW 183 - Easter
    knackering, cherish, glorious, repentance, suffering
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Dance
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Ptolemy the Savior

    This knackering life, has at times become quite unbearable, filling even myself oft with doubt. One might imagine the joy that such an opportunity presents. No legitimate heir capable enough to lead as mighty an empire as the world had ever seen. To this day, I hear the name Ptolemy, whispered, with the last breath of a dying king. Not a day goes by where I don’t recall that moment, playing again, over and over in my mind. I was the chosen one, by word of Alexander. Too long I've fought for my right to rule the entirety of the empire, I helped forge.

    They repudiated his word. The cowardly vultures, seeking to sift their own part of his united empire for themselves, so many squabbled. They denied the word of the divinely chosen king of our people. Whilst having been proclaimed son of Zeus, at Siwa, Alexander was above men. He was a glorious soul sent from above to establish a beacon of light, in an ever darkened world. The unification of our people, and the swift justice enacted on those who would mean our people harm.

    The darkness of the east, the Persians, headed by sadistic, and vile rulers, whom oft proclaimed themselves god-kings, were swiftly dealt the thunder of almighty Zeus. Alexander did not fear these kings of tyranny, and their false gods. Despite the oddities against us, the Persian King’s vast armies, territories, and people, we devoured the odds, and overcame the horrid tyrant. The people of Asia were liberated. They had known nothing but oppression their whole lives. But for dear Alexander, they had quickly grown to cherish his accomplishments. His divine will to deliver them from the darkness.

    I had grown quite a fondness of Africa, myself, when we visited it on campaign. Many of the general staff viewed it as nothing more than unforgiving heat, a desolate mass of sandy dunes, with little hospitable land, kept by sheep herders, and uncouth mongrels, honoring ancient, and false gods. My colleagues were fools. Egypt's a beacon of success, and has been for thousands of years. I have little to no repentance of my selection, and my forty years of fighting for what is truly mine.


    These people, my people, have suffered for too long. They yearn for greatness. They toiled under the same unforgiving sun as their ancestors, dating back as many generations as can be counted. Egyptians are a mighty, and tested people, seeing foreign rule to foreign rule, the destruction of their native dynasties, yet they strive on, they persevere in the face of adversity. Alas, their suffering has been assuaged. The establishment of this dynasty will dwarf its predecessors, and under the dynasty of Ptolemy, my descendants will see Egypt endure, indefinitely. Alas, my time comes to an end, but the base has been laid. Both Greek, and Egyptian, shall endure the hardships together, and prevail. This is my enduring legacy.
    Entrant 2 - Shankbot de Bodemloze
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    In Sufferance, In Spirit

    We are suffering but no one listens,
    We are hurting but viewed as an omission,
    We are pained but they do not look,
    We are lost alas with little luck,

    One day we hope to be cherished,
    One day we hope not to be fished,
    One day we want a life of love and joy,
    One day we want a world for our boys,

    For now we seem to suffer under the guise of repentance,
    For now we watch as they all live in a bliss of ignorance,
    For now we bide our time waiting for the opportunity,
    For now we plan in secret in all but monotony,

    It seems our glorious ​spirit has gone,
    It seems our life is from when our forefathers shone,
    It seems our fight has been driven out of us,
    It seems our goal is to do naught our mind in a fuzz,

    But amidst our knackering teeth and feeble ways,
    But from deep within we remember those Summer days,
    But despite being battered and bruised,
    But although our lives are destined to not be amused,

    I remember that spirit we once had,
    I kindle the hope that not all will be bad,
    I made a promise to fight them back,
    I made a vow to not give up and slack,

    We will be remembered for our deeds to survive,
    We will be remembered for our needs to be alive,
    We will try our best to make sure we succeed,
    We will plan away to stop us being viewed as feed,

    I hope to live to see this great moment,
    I however know that my death is immanent,
    I know the world will be better for the future generation,
    I feel we must make sacrifices today so to live in better judgement,

    But for now we suffer in silence,
    But we have a spirit not broken through violence.


    TotW 184 - Inferno
    crackle, hollow, flame, glow, glorious
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - R-teen
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Somehow his voice lacked the authority I always expected from him. You could even almost swear that there was a tone of uncertainty hidden underneath it.

    He was also a little uglier than I thought.

    He cleared his throat, "Judgment passed," he stopped to study my face... I think he was looking for some kind of sick satisfaction in seeing me shake from fear. Sadly, he found none. "You are to go to hell, and suffer there for the rest of eternity."

    Okay, I'm shaking. "Isn't that what we've been through every day on earth?" I sounded so bored that I even shocked myself. "Metaphorically, literally... what difference does it make? Hell is hell either way. Sufferance is sufferance... To be honest with you mate, it'll be a relief. Truly, it's nice to see some action on your side instead of always threatening."

    I stopped for a sideways glance at the landscape. It was hell of an inferno. All the fear and running gave a sick rapturous touch to the masterpiece. He didn't seem to be enjoying it as much as I expected him to be though, after all, he had planned some million years for this. "It's a glorious scenery though, I'll give you that. Those crackles and flames and fireworks and all... It really scares the **** out of me."

    -"Oh thanks. You're flattering." He seemed a little dull.

    -"Why, don't you believe in your own masterpiece?"

    -"I do like it, mind, but... It's just that... you know, I've been dreaming for this for I know how many years... and now it's over? Really? I mean... what now? You know it seems to me that I don't have anything else to do anymore... eternity would seem so boring without watching you tiny little beings rush to go to work and stuff..." In all its weirdness, he seemed amused. "You should check out some of the tapes I recorded from you... I've got to admit, it is quite a sight watching you from up here." Suddenly he was quite and sad again. "Now I'm stuck here with this ill feeling."

    -"I understand you..."

    -"You do?"

    -"Uhum."

    -"Have you ever felt like this before?"

    -"Every time I fulfilled a big dream... There was this hollow feeling awaiting me... The greater the achievement was, the sadder I felt."

    The poor deity felt at lost. He seemed confused, and he had every right to be.

    "Now if you'll excuse me," I started to say, "I have some suffering to endure."

    "Do you want me to postpone it? You can have this day off, on me..."

    "No. But thanks for the thought. After that dull life of mine, I think I'm going to need it for a change." And with that I started to join to panicking crowd.

    "Wait!" He called with an agonized expression on his face. That glow which seemed able to set a mountain on fire was gone from his eyes. "Do you have a cigarette to spare?"
    Entrant 2 - Dance
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The fire was well established by this point. The stars above shone down, it was a clear night, with a cloudless sky. Halfwit and Brunnar were gorging themselves on rat stew, in relative silence. Both men took in the light breeze, and basked in the calmness of the night, the glow of the fire, creating the last vestige of light in their makeshift encampment. The crack of dawn seems to have been late, on that morning. Halfwit, whose name is certainly justifiable by his level of intelligence, stared aimlessly into the fire, watching the endless flame dance.

    The silence was so evident, that the crackle of the fire made a sleeping Ron Hill toss and turn, awaking frequently from the sound. Ron was definitely a light sleeper, for such a simple, soothing sound to cause disruption in his sleep. Eventually, Ron got up, and fetched a bowl of stew for himself.

    “Gods be damned.” Ron said, angrily.

    “I cannot sleep a wink at this point. I’m too excited for the ambush, in a few hours. I got to stay up now.”

    Brunnar turned to him, and smiled. “Welcome to the club.” He said, turning to Halfwit. “You can stare at that thing all night, it’s not going to change, fool.”

    Halfwit just continued to stare into the fire.

    "What part of that didn’t sink into that hollow head of yours?"
    Brunnar continued his bombardment of Halfwit’s intellect.

    Halfwit just ignored him, and Brunnar realized it was useless to continue on.

    “How much take do you think we’ll collect on that caravan, when it crosses?” Ron said, eagerly.

    “Well… It depends largely on one factor. If there’s a large host of guards, then my guess is always the more valuable the cargo is. Proves truthful, most of the time.” Brunnar replied, assuredly.

    “Do we have the means to take down a large host?” Ron said, nervously.

    Brunnar looked over to Halfwit. “Well ofcourse! I mean, look at this fool, he can easily take thrice his number. He may possess the wits of a fruit fly, but he’s most certainly able to swing a club.”

    “I can take down ten men by my lonesome.” Brunnar said, boastfully. “The populous ought to be referring to me as ‘Brunnar the Brave’, or ‘Brunnar the Glorious’!” He said, boastfully. He looked Ron up and down. “You, well, I’m sure you can handle as many as Halfwit.” He said jokingly.

    “What about the new one?” Ron said, inquiringly.

    “Robin?” Brunnar turned to the new addition. “Not sure. They call him ‘Robin of the Hood’, oddly. He dresses like an absolute nance. Little John tells me he’s got some skill with a bow. I suppose he will serve his purpose this morning. I guess we’ll find out one way or another.”

    The two men went silent. It was near time to prepare for them to commence their preparation for the ambush.
    Entrant 3 - Confederate Jeb
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Only the dancing shadows fill these hollow halls. The glint of a small flame shrinking on the mounted pedestal as I silently pass by is not enough to spark my immediate interest, despite its rare occurrence. It is only the fourth such light I have encountered. I continue onward into the dark, only to find myself face to face with a wall. A dead end. With few remaining options, I return to the soft glow of the flame for a respite.

    It is day three of my imprisonment in the barrows of the old kings. The superstitious villagers of the nearby town had not approve of my appearance, nor of my choice of profession, and had cast me into this unholy pit of darkness and despair. But I was accustomed to the dimmer places of the world, and with the entrance closed behind me I set off into the deep void before me. I was fortunate enough to have provisions on my person, having resupplied at the previous town. So as my rations dwindled, I marched on, my spell of dark sight all that lead my way...and, perhaps, all that kept me sane. Yes, my path before this place was...figuratively dark, but even one such as I needed some comfort in the stillness of the deep places. The feeling of being alone, that you were the only living thing in the world, is startling enough to cut to a man's core.

    My reflection of events past did not interfere with my visual search for the path onwards, but I am still unable to find the way. For minutes (minutes!) I stand perplexed, unsure of how to proceed, when a glorious epiphany stirs in my head, and I turn to the mounted flame. Yes, its perch is indeed different that then three before it. As I move my hand to feel the craftsmanship on the stonework, etched away by time, my finger latches onto a button. I hear a large knock behind the wall, followed by the slow movement of the wall immediately to the right of the flame retracting into itself, followed in turn by an unnatural crackle. "Of course," I think to myself, "the kings of old would enchant their tomb with such spells." With the entrance now fully revealed, the clatter of bones grew louder. Rather than charge headlong and prevent the spawning undead from preparing, I withdraw my staff from its leather sheath on my back and begin casting a spell. Such a simple spell, yet nearly all of my repertoire relied on one of its two forms. As three skeletal warriors, patchwork rags covering their bones in various places, come into view, I smile. The townsfolk that cast me into this pit would surely view that smile as evil, but they are biased against my type. The foremost undead soldier charges, sword raised overhead. Just before the weapon begins its descent, I cast my spell. "Convert undead." Being a necromancer is too much fun.
    Entrant 4 - Dude with the Food
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    In the twilight of the dying sun, the great hall, Heorot, stands glorious; its pale light glowing over the land. It stands alone amidst the deep of the forest and the dark of the night. No birds call. No dogs bark. Even the men have grown into the silence that echoes upon evening. They fear the echoes. Calling songs of demons they say, louder each and every night. They bring out mead and ale, to wash away the fear and begin singing and playing music. They soon forget the echoes and the screams to their own peril.

    Inside Heorot, beneath the elite craftsmanship of hundreds, tales are told, songs are sung, merriments are made. The finest, grandest, most awe-inspiring, cursed monument to the treasures of all the Danes, it stands for the king and he alone. In testament to his power, flames burn tall, crackling and calling sagas of years gone by. Great oaken tables rise laden with the richest foods and wines in a single location. The most powerful Jarls and Huscarls in Denmark pay their homage to King Hrothgar here.

    Yet tonight is different.


    Tonight, the echoes become no longer hollow. They ring true and clear as noiseless music from the pits of hell. The demon of the swamp will rise from his stinking pit of carrion and wreak havoc and destruction upon the great hall of men. He shall become a plague upon the land, notwithstanding all the greatest heroes that reside in that one location. And he shall remain, appearing each night taking another hero from beneath the king’s feet and he will do nothing. Because he cannot. Each night the monster shall take another hero because sometimes a hero is not enough.


    Sometimes more than a hero is needed.

    Sometimes a legend is needed.

    Sometimes, Beowulf.

  5. #45

    Default Re: TotW Story Index

    TotW 185 - 10th TWC Anniversary
    No word requirements
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Shankbot de Bodemloze
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    System Database
    Search For: Key Entries; Total War Centre; ID512DB

    Search Entire Database - Access Level 5: One entry withheld: "Access Denied Insufficient Permissions".

    [ORDER: Oldest First^]
    RESULT ONE: Summer, 2011 - First Contact


    I still remember the day today - first contact.

    I was Googling The Principality of Antioch after staring a Crusader's campaign with them and came across a page about them on the TWC Wiki - my first contact with TWC - at that point I didn't really how massive the site actually was. Anyway I was coming towards the end of the article and saw there was a link to an AAR - the first TW AAR I ever read (indeed only the 3rd AAR which I read all the way through - A Civ 5 one and a BG2 came first!) and to this day it will still hold a special place in my heart. Anyway that was my first contact with Total War Centre.

    Posted by ID:512DB EDITED: ##/##/##
    -----------------------------------------
    RESULT TWO: Summer, 2011 - Exploration

    I was spending most of the summer days exploring the site, of course there was still a lot I had yet to explore. One area I had come across was the RS2 forums, I fell in love with the mod and downloaded it still as a "Guest", playing it as soon as it was done. A great mod which I still have installed, sadly I have never really posted there as a member.

    Posted by ID:512DB EDITED: ##/##/11
    -----------------------------------------
    RESULT THREE: December, 2011 - Registration

    As of this date I became a member of Total War Centre after wanting to comment on a fabulous AAR which used the DLV mod, and also wanting to find out how I could download this mod for myself even though I had Steam's version of M2TW. My first threads were silly questions, which were answered with a lot of patience and eventually I was lead to the Writers' Study - a place I have remained even since.

    Posted by ID:512DB EDITED: 01/01/12
    -----------------------------------------
    RESULT FOUR: March/April, 2012 [approx] - Enrolment

    Today is a good day, I have become a Local Moderator for the Writers' Study! Ever since discovering the Study I have been driven to achieve this role, hopefully from this day on it will be the last thing I'll stop doing on this site. I cannot wait to get more involved with the Study and hopefully help it become an even better place. I am already thinking of my first Tale of the Week storyboard to set-up...

    Posted by ID:512DB EDITED: <<not edited>>
    -----------------------------------------
    RESULT FIVE: March, 2013 - Disengage

    [Entry withheld - Error 402: "Insufficient permissions to access. Please contact System Administrator."]

    Posted by <<unknown USER ID>> EDITED: ##/##/##
    -----------------------------------------

    Showing top five results, click here to see more.
    Page 1|2|3|4
    IC3cht Database Search Copyright


    Entrant 2 - Confederate Jeb
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    *To the Aspiring Troll*

    I saw your case in the tribunal. It's always fun to watch beginners such as yourself "defend" their obvious insults and trolling by blaming oppressive and biased moderators. You lack subtlety, discretion, and tact. Any internet denizen can make a blatant troll post; it takes skill to "troll softly," to artfully enrage the opponent into making a fool of themselves, and perhaps finding a way to land on the wrong side of the ToS. Enclosed is a little guide of mine for novices like you who know of nothing better than ad hominem attacks; the guide to trolling softly in five sub-forums you may deem troll-worthy. Learn this well or return to the Tribunal.

    Political Mudpit - Ah, the breeding ground of scum and villainy. This sub-forum is filled to the brim with mudslinging, insults, and a lack of sources. Knowing who to target is the most important fact the troll must understand. Making ignorant posters and less skilled trolls angry is not rewarding; trolling the real debaters is the true sport. There are two ways to effectively troll here:
    1: Post once and never respond. Watch as dozens of posters scramble over each other to create the largest post possible to counteract your simple statement. The 20 seconds you spent typing wasted an hour of a poster's time as he tried to find sources and make a coherent argument.
    2: Rather than instigate the long-winded posts, simply quote the ones already produce and refute them with one to two sentences. The rage induced can fuel a thousand suns.
    In either case, try to also include some bit that is somewhat off-topic; the PM debators will take that one comment and completely derail the thread as the gradually move their argument to revolve around this new subject.

    Rome II General Discussion - The mother load of trolling potential. Simply questioning a source or a historical "fact" produced by an internet historian of clear repute is enough to cause giant mushrooms clouds of anger. One of the easiest ways to cause a debate with minimal work is to declare Creative Assembly to be completely historically accurate in all of their doings. Bonus points for saying that the Egypt faction in R:TW is a perfect representation of Egypt during the time frame.

    Personal Help and Advice - AVOID AT ALL COSTS. The mere scent of potential trolls will result in a ban hammer worthy of Thor to come crashing down upon you.

    Questions and Suggestions - Complain about the 500 error messages and ask why nobody has addressed them. It's hard to differentiate the troll from the oblivious poster who didn't see the 30 plus page thread on the topic.

    Thema Devia - Trolling more openly is advised here, and insults directed at ponies, bird, and cats with melons will easily draw ire. A good place to practice trolling before moving on to more fertile grounds.

    *Burn this after reading. None must know our ways.*
    Entrant 3 - Dance
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    An average day of my life on TWC… This most certainly is an odd T.o.t.W. topic, however, it is a special edition!

    A glance at my average day, with TWC:


    Monday, April 22nd, 2013

    0730 – Shift ends.
    0730-0751 – Talked Game of Thrones lore with a day shift colleague.
    0751 – Left for the parking lot.
    0755 – Warmed up my car, due to a cool Canadian morning.
    0756 – I grew impatient, immediately. I initiated my idle Samsung Galaxy S3, opened the internet app, and generally browsed
    TWC, whilst I waited.
    0806 – After getting carried away with reading, I departed the parking lot for home.
    0810 – I arrived home, just six blocks away, down one road.
    0812 – I walked in the door, still browsing
    TWC.
    0814 – I arrived at my apartment, ensuring I gave the dog a few minutes to go berserk, and avoid touching him to avoid being peed on, out of sheer excitement.
    0818 – I halted my browsing, put the dog's leash on him, and headed outside.
    0824 – After a quick walk, I came indoors and showered.
    0835 – I prepared a bowl of cheerios.
    0839 – I finished eating, and browsing.
    0845 – I logged onto my desktop.
    0845 – I turned on my TV, and initiated the PVR, to watch Sunday night’s Game of Thrones episode.
    0845-0955 – I browsed TWC Writer’s Study, despite no new posts/threads.

    During this time:

    • I opened Warcraft 3, logged into battle.net, and immediately searched for a random four versus four match.
    • Due to it being morning, it took awhile to find a game, so I alt-tabbed, and browsed TWC, while watching Game of Thrones, and waiting for a match.
    • ​A match was found, the game window opened, and I began gaming.
    • ​Moments later, I got back-stabbed by a joker teammate, which resulted in a loss. Frustrated, I exited WC3, and resumed browsing TWC.

    0956 – After browsing most articles, and finishing the Game of Thrones episode, I logged off my desktop, turned off the TV, and went to bed.
    1700 – My alarm went off, and I rolled my lazy body out of bed.
    1704 – I logged onto my desktop, and
    TWC, browsed the Writer’s Study, and new posts.
    1739 – I headed downstairs to the gym.
    1739-1830 – I worked out, and browsed
    TWC, simultaneously.
    1840 – I ate, showered, and left for the hockey game.
    1930 – I arrived, and watched the Senators versus Penguins game, browsing
    TWC, during intermissions.
    2230 – I left the game, and headed to work, browsing
    TWC, during traffic.
    2330 - I arrived at work, and logged onto my work desktop, and checked new emails.
    2330-0730 – I worked, and browsed the Writer’s Study, sporadically, throughout the night.

    During this time:

    • I ensured my weekly T.o.t.W. entry was prepared for submission, for the morning it’s due.
    • I worked on my creative story.
    • I read and 'repped' creative story entries.

    0730 – My shift ended. I repeated the previous day's schedule, with minor alterations.
    Entrant 4 - Dude with the Food
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Click.
    Light. He shuddered, his eyes darting around, adjusting to his surroundings.
    “Name?” The officer stared into the shamble that was his interviewee.
    “Carl. Carl Davison.” He checked over his shoulder. There was a table in the middle of the room, and he was bound to a small wooden stool. A door, the only other feature of the cell, stood thick and steeled and grey against an otherwise grey wall. The interrogator fixed him with a solid gaze before continuing.
    “So, Carl.” He spat the name with piercing doubt. “If you would like to begin describing the scene? What you were doing, what happened and how you reacted?”
    The smaller man winced, and his eyes glazed over. “I think it was the April 23rd but I can’t remember. 2023. I was sat at home, checking the net, nothing weird. I had a new flavour of tea, something Chinese and experimental. It was just a prototype, a friend asked me to try it for his company. Anyway, I was there on a forum when the phone rings next to me. I answer it.” He visibly shakes, his eyes red and bleary.
    “Go on.” The official prompted more.
    “Well, I answer it. It’s my brother.” He starts shivering and turns white.
    “What would be wrong with that?”
    “He - he’s dead. He died three years ago in the Second Korean War. And he spoke to me.”
    “What then?” Visibly shaken, the officer still pressed onwards, knowing he was close to the truth.
    “I – I jumped. My arm flew across and hit the tea. It fell. It landed on the computer. Then it happened.”
    “What happened?” though he feared he already knew the answer.
    “It came at me. Everything fizzed and my brother was telling me he was fine and I wouldn’t move – I couldn’t move. The computer started vibrating, my brother started shouting and the computer, it exploding. The monitor shattering. Glass everywhere. A piece flies through my cheek. Still there. A figure. It starts speaking to me. It keeps sparking and flashing. It glows.”
    “Can you hear it? What is it saying?”
    He murmurs onwards, “It glows. So bright. It came from the site. It came from the drive. It was the screen.”
    “What was it saying?! What site?” He was shaking the man now, terrified of what he had discovered.
    “It flashed, the wires sparked. The whole computer exploded. Then a whizzing sound. Then a laughing. My brother laughing, along with another voice. An electric voice. Then the lights went out. I checked outside and see lampposts flickering and dying, someone on their phone drops dead.”
    “What site man? What bloody site?”
    Any onlooker would no longer distinguish the questioned from the questioner.
    “It was Total War Centre.”

    A hollow laugh suddenly rang through the building. Followed by a whirring noise. The light flickered. Then died.
    Entrant 5 - Mank
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    “TWC’s 10th Anniversary: Total Warfare General”

    To be read to the tune of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Modern Major General”
    --click HERE to go to the youtube video if you haven't heard it, starts at 1:05--

    I am the very model of a total warfare general
    I’ve battled through the ages and had victories innumerable
    The Total Warfare Center is the place that I feel most at home
    Before I go to war I’ll tell you every sub-forum that I know.

    If catalogue’s your cup of tea then look in The Scriptorium
    If gaming is your pleasure you can find it in ad nauseam
    I’ve never seen a Mudpit quite as pointedly political
    Where every conversation ends in anger quite predictable.

    I earned my education from the Warfare University
    That’s overseen by Hader’s unrequited generosity
    And after all that knowledge if you’re hankering for something free
    Then click your heels together ‘cause they’ve even got a Lottery.

    To find out what has happened check Vestigia Vetustatis
    If debating, then The Fight Club is exactly where your mat is
    Yes the Total Warfare Center really does its best to have it all
    And is the perfect forum for a total warfare general.

    Instead of hungry lions we have words games in The Coliseum
    The Arts has several pieces that are better than in some museums
    If you ponder on your morals try Ethos, Mores, and Monastica
    The Traveler’s Lodge will make you think this world is just fantastica.

    If you go down to The Basement where computers are the currency
    They'll get your PC faster than a piece of modern rocketry
    If you’ve broken all your beakers find some new ones in Athenaeum
    Where science is the subject and your research is a premium.

    If you have a love of letters look within The Writer’s Study
    Where the authors love to write and write of everything but money,
    Yes the Total Warfare Center really does its best to have it all
    And is the perfect forum for a total warfare general.

    Universitas Olympus is for those who feel more sporty
    But is not a homely place if you hate football games or rugby
    Thema Devia’s the spot for having random conversation
    And another opportunity to gain some reputation.

    The Multiplayer Battlefield is where we go to socialize
    Until opposing forces have sufficiently been pulverized
    The Curia is where the moderators make decisions
    While Symposium is solely for the Citizen’s derision.

    The oldest of the old are buried in the Cemetery
    While the Questions and Suggestions go beyond the ordinary
    There is even a Bazaar for those who get totally technical
    This is the perfect forum for a total warfare general!!
    Entrant 6 - Robin de Bodemloze
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The Writer's Study

    “Ugh…”

    I pushed open the office door. The air was dank, and the morning sun etched ribbons of light across the floor. As usual books were littered about the place, but today they were joined by the aftermath of the night before. Empty beer cans, cigar-ends. Our budget was meagre at best, but the boss had forked out his own money to give Jack a sending off, and we'd had a good time.

    My head hurt. My brain felt like it was pounding against my skull with the force of a thousand rabid buffalo. That editorial wasn't going to write itself though, I knew. As I dropped myself onto my chair the wooden frame creaked loudly, and for a moment I was fearful that the old construct would collapse under my weight. The chair had been a present from my predecessor, and to lose it in a moment of drunkenness would be a shameful display indeed. The chair held, but as I put my fingers to the keyboard before me, no words came. Instead I found my mind wandering – pondering unanswerable questions which presumably plagued every writer bar those of great fame. Who actually read the words I – we – put to paper every month? How many? Did anyone care? It made no difference to the salary available to me, but as a writer – a purveyor of knowledge as I liked to think – surely there was a higher calling than simply lining one’s pocket? Sales had been middling for some time now, but for the most part the team kept faith.

    I needed a breakthrough. We needed a breakthrough – but as the monotonous drone in my head continued none was forthcoming.

    Knock knock-

    Who’s there I muttered, cursing lightly under my breath. I felt sure a hatred of interruptions was shared among all writers, and as I righted myself I could hear voices behind the door. Opening it I was confronted by a squabble of youthful faces. My state of shock was probably plain to see. It was only when the boy at the front raised a paper – our paper – before me that I recovered my senses.

    “Mister, we’s here to apply for the position you advertised – here!”

    I looked at the square the boy was pointing to in the paper. I needn't have – I had penned it myself with the boss’s approval. Looking at the rabble of shaggy kids before me I chuckled.

    “Do you know what it takes to be a writer? And it’s ‘we are’ if you don’t mind.”

    “No, but the paper said you would coach us. We’s eager to learn, mister.”

    I sighed. A part of me felt sure I was getting myself into more trouble than this was worth...

    ...but perhaps their youthful enthusiasm was what this sleepy old place needed? I needed the boss’s approval in any case, but perhaps there was no harm in being optimistic..?

    “Come on in.”


    TotW 186 - Calipso
    curse, swirl, ghostly, fame, history
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Mank
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    “I told ye not t’shoot the cannon straight down!!!” cried Captain Bodemloze from the quarterdeck. “Gunnery Sergeant, bring me the barnacle-brained fool what blew this hole in me ocean!”

    The Confederate Jeb heaved against the current as a giant whirlpool opened nearby and began to swirl violently.

    Even the most hardened sea-rats cursed as Gunnery Sergeant Dance descended onto the gun deck. The mute old pirate stamped madly on the wooden boards, “Where is he?” Dance signaled with furious Emotion, “Name him!”

    Every privateer turned a ghostly shade of white; they had never seen the Gunnery Sergeant so consumed with rage. Every hand shot to the gun in the center of the cramped compartment. There, crouched behind the smoking R-Teen Ultra-Powered Pirate Cannon, cowered the captain’s nephew. Most crewmembers knew the lad as the “Dude with the Food,” due to his unusually large collection of salted seagulls, though his real name was Robin, son of the Famed Radzeer “The Rogue” Bodemloze.

    Dance scowled and gripped the young man by the collar, dragging him across the splintered floor and up to the quarterdeck.

    Above deck the cannons thundered as the whirlpool grew. While most of the enemy fleet fled the maelstrom, two boats were still locked in deadly battle. On one edge sailed The Confederate Jeb, captained by the nefarious Shankbot de Bodemloze; on the other sailed The Darkan, flagship of the royal navy and captained by none other than William “The Marshal”.

    Amid the chaos the Gunnery Sergeant emerged to the top deck with Robin behind him. Shankbot looked down and grinned, showing his full set of gold teeth. “Sure as sin lad you’re brain’s rum-rotted from stem to stern. I wager you’ll go down in history as Rum-Robin ‘The Intoxicated’ Bodemloze!”

    A cannonball whistled past Shankbot’s head, taking his cap with it. “Blast it all!” cried Shankbot as he ordered his ship to return fire. From across the whirlpool Shankbot could see the Darkan shudder and tip violently to one side. “Direct hit!” shouted the captain, “come about lads!”

    The Confederate Jeb groaned as it fought to escape the vortex. Just as they broke the crest Robin saw the captain shudder and fall from the helm as shrapnel tore into Shankbot’s left shoulder. Quick as a flash Robin rushed across the bridge and caught his uncle before losing him to the violent waters below.

    As the ship came-to there was an awed silence as Robin pulled his uncle back onboard. The crew stood still as stone as Shankbot slowly climbed back to his feet. “You see that lads?” said the captain to his gnarled crew, “even three sheets to the wind us Bodemloze are the finest Jack Tar’s this world has to offer!” The crew all shouted wildly as Robin was raised to the sky. That night every pirate aboard The Confederate Jeb drank to their hearts content, toasting Robin de Bodemloze and their most glorious victory against the English Crown.
    Entrant 2 - Dude with the Food
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Swaying.
    Stumbling.
    Spiralling.
    Long and slow, graceful in its descent, the figure neared the marbled floor. Reaching towards him, with stone-cold hands, the ground reared up. His eyes wide in terror, oblivious to his wounds, he faced his fate.
    Death.
    As rigid as his opposition, he spun, facing off the wall, the frame, the ceiling, the candelabra; before finally gazing upon darkness. It grew closer and closer, a mere split-second from entering his body. This was his curse to be? To cease being? After the pain and the torment and the agony, this?

    A ghostly silhouette watched from the shadows as the doll clattered to the floor. It bounced oddly, due to the triad of steel rods protruding from its body.
    Head. Once home to thought and reason, now, a severe disfigurement of what will be.
    Heart. A bygone capability, once this swirled with blood and energy, as cold as the ground beneath.
    Soul. The last haven for any resolve or will, broken and tortured beyond recognition.

    A ghostly silhouette stepped out into the night, his practice complete for the night. He needed to be satisfied with only his quarry’s death before dawn else he was dead to all but history. Because he had rewritten history that night, and achieved everlasting fame, though the rewriting was yet to be witnessed.

    A ghostly silhouette slipped into the shadows of a high building, ornately decorated in splendour befitting of the wealthiest alone. He entered the braying crowds, and looked upon the spectacle of his brother’s achievements. He above behind the balconies, his brother grasped the handle of the doors and taking a deep breath, stepped out.

    The roar of the crowds at his appearance coaxed him further out, to the ledge. His wife stood beside him, his parents behind.
    He lifted his hand to the people. They silenced.
    He raised his head to the people. They listened.
    He choked. They watched.
    His hand flew to his torso, and blood ran, as though he had been pierced by rapier.
    His head exploded with pain. More thick red liquid streamed from his face.
    And he screamed. In agony and in terror, howling at the jet black skies.
    In one final moment, he saw his kin become raging demons, spewing forth fire and darkness
    Recoiling in horror from his former family lurching towards him, he swayed backwards.
    He stumbled over the balcony.
    He spiralled, long and slow yet ungraceful in his descent. Reaching towards him, with blazing hot claws, the fires reared towards him.
    The people looked on in terror.
    The greatest of them all had fallen, as though stricken by a plague from God’s own hand. His scattered remains lay around them, as a marker of this monumental change. His wife hurtled downwards, screeching curses amongst the world in her final seconds before joining him in heaven. Or hell.

    A ghostly silhouette stalked from the scene, content.
    Entrant 3 - Dance
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Memnon of Rhodes
    The Bane of Alexander the Great

    Here I lay, at Mytilene. My life is slipping slowly from my grasp, as I recollect my accomplishments and past indiscretions. My dreams are all too often haunted by the ghostly apparitions of the countless warriors I've put to the sword, sending them to the boatman. The river Styx is where my own journey nears. My time bleeds thin, my body deteriorates, and my soul, evaporating.

    I was an ill-tempered youth. Listening to authority was a thing for the eagles. I was a poacher, picking what remnants of good I could, and moving on to the next. Ironically, this same saying served for the women I bedded in my years. Take that girl for a swirl, my brother would say. For you never know when next one shall tend to your aches, and warm your linens. Life comes at you, inevitably, and you could only embrace it, enjoying what sifts of it you can, while all the more trying to survive the ire of a seemingly innumerable amount of conquering kings.

    I am perplexed by my unfortunate fate, though perhaps a life of warfare is just cause for such fate. This life I was born into, some might only dream could exist. Such humble and opportune beginnings might only be met with a tragic fate, in the end. It seems as though my life has passed before me as quickly as I can recall it… What fame has been raised, or was ever there at all? I assume I was thought of as nothing more than another one of the Persian King’s expendable commanders. I was never held in the high regard that my late brother was. Now, it is too late. The opportunity to defeat my rivals, vanquished.

    Rhodians have always been an indifferent and stalwart people. Battered by the furious times that had come before us, we persevered better than most. Our centralization, a curse, but one we heartily embrace. Finding the middle ground had always been an unending internal struggle. Where do one’s allegiances lay? Honoring the same gods does not immediately mean servitude to the most powerful of the honorees.

    History is forged by those who have pushed beyond their own physical, and psychological limits, to ensure their names are enshrined in the annals of time. Alexander III of Macedon is a name that future generations will adore, but with his accomplishments, came aches and pains, the subjects of which he has overcome, and prevailed. It is by this fact, that all future generations will remember the third Alexander of Macedon. Yet, Alexander’s tale cannot be told, without telling the tale of the greatest of his adversaries.

    My name is Memnon, brother of Mentor. Though my tale soon ends, my legacy shall endure.


    Historical note:

    Memnon devised a strategy to cut off Alexander's supply lines to Asia, which could have cost Macedon the war. Unfortunately, he died in Mytilene, before accomplishing his mission.
    Entrant 4 - R-teen
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    He tsked; as if the dashing water was a child to be silenced. The ocean heeded not his exasperation; it was a wild child indeed. He could make out the soft tune of a harp being played, and a sweet voice singing. He cursed his fellow sailors to silence, although they were already as transfixed as he was—all oblivious to the fact that they were sinking into a maelstrom.

    With each day passing, as closer they got to the treasure – or so the map claimed – he felt more helpless and at loss. Despite the nagging of his fellows, he didn't want to give up the mysterious treasure and all the riches and fame it could bring him. Perhaps it was his once-in-a-lifetime chance to etch his name in history. Recently however, he was beginning to see reason in the advice of his colleagues, and considered giving up the hunt as a bad job. He was on the verge of calling it all off, until tonight...

    The cry of the ocean and the ship noises descended into silent thuds and hums as the beautiful song gave rise. He could hardly hear anything else anymore.

    "Round and round, down into depths of abyss we swirl
    Amidst a sea of anxiety, a life of dissatisfaction ye twirl
    To which albeit, a fondness ye hast gradually grown,
    As to my embrace ye dost fall, let thy wings unfurl..."

    And down they went.

    He stood in a small isle in an underground lake. The ship and the commotion of the ocean... they were gone. The sound of the water-drops hitting the lake seemed like a loud booming against the tranquility of the sanctuary. Near him, there was a inscription on a stone tablet which read:

    "The most desired of all treasures is found but deep down in oneself."

    Suddenly he saw the ghostly figure of a nymph in a shifting white dress; it seemed as if it was made of liquid, and it was radiating a mesmerizing light. Her face and features struck him like a lightning bolt; she was beautiful... Very much at that.

    "Wish a wish, and I shall see it fulfilled. Beware though, for what thou wish may doom thee forever here; for there is no escaping this place."

    Her soft voice brought him out of his bafflement. "So the treasure map was a lie." he said more to himself than to her.

    "No, 'twas not. Should you seek so, I can make thee richer than any human being could ever dare dream to be."

    "And be trapped here forever..."

    She echoed his words.

    "Technically, that's still a 'no-treasure' to me."

    "The treasure, my foolish adventurer, is that I can wake thee up in a sunny day in thy home in the Islands and thou would still be alive—to hath been gifted a second chance; and that, most people overlook while opening their eyes to a new morrow. That's a treasure a wise man would cherish, and so should thee."
    Entrant 5 - Darkan
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Jens' Tale

    This is a tale that will not go down in history, bards will not sing of it because only I know it to be true. When I was no more than a boy I decided to see the world and what better way than travelling by sea. Once every spring a ship would come to my village and its captain took me aboard. For countless moons we travelled and I saw many places, some cold and covered in white snow, others so hot that it seemed the devil himself lived there.

    But that matters little. A great war had started, one against the enemies of God, and our captain knew there were plenty of coins to be earned by ferrying men across the sea. We weren’t looking for fame and glory, like they were. We had set sail early in the morning, the largest fleet of ships you will ever see, more than a thousand large boats, with thrice as many smaller ones. We sailed without trouble until the sixth day. A fight broke out between some of the crew and a few soldiers over gambling and the captain decided to punish one of the crew members, a Greek, for fear of not losing his gains. The Greek was to be tied up on the mast for the remaining journey but he soon died from thirst. Before he died he put a curse on the captain and the soldiers. At that moment we all laughed at him, thinking he had gone mad.

    The following night I woke up and climbed the mast, as I was on duty. Before long a thick mist started to slowly surround the ship until I could see nothing else. I started shouting out to the other ships, waiting for a reply, but none came. Then, before my eyes appeared the most beautiful maiden I had ever seen. I looked at her ghostly face in disbelief as she approached the ship, walking on water as if it was land. She gently touched the side of the ship, looked at me and, with a soothing voice, said:

    - Good Jens, you have chanced to gaze upon me, so for this I'll spare your life, but your sight will be mine, so you may never look upon other than Charybdis.

    The woman disappeared just as she had appeared. A thunderous noise made me wake from my reverie and as I turned towards it, a giant whirlpool, the kind I had never seen before, opened before our ship. I shouted at the helmsman and as the ship leaned left, trying to avoid it, the whirlpool began to grow, dragging us closer and closer to it. From the top of the mast, I could see the swirl drawing us nearer, with no chance of escaping.

    The only thing I ever see anymore is the whirlpool and the face of the woman, but after so many years the two intertwine and I can’t separate them any longer.





    TotW 187 - From Another World
    robot, electronic, light, discovery, digital
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Robin de Bodemloze
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    "Genesis 5-3 sighted, sir, distance: 64.5 light months, vector: 51.5, 20.3, 73.9."

    "Prepare the landing craft for entry, and put the extraction team on alert code Omega-9."

    "Orders noted, sir. Team Pegasus will enter the cryostasis chamber and commence electronic reanimation. Upon completion mission briefing will be held immediately. Vector registered – entering orbit in zero-five-six minutes."

    "Very good. Set course for ultra-high geostationary orbit above Genesis 5-3, and upload the coordinates of the Ark into E.V.E. The planet’s atmosphere is 53% disulphur tetraoxide - Pegasus' life support systems will give them no more than 160 minutes to complete extraction and rendezvous with the Discovery quarantine module."

    "Yes sir…."

    "What is the matter, Karan? You've been holding something back ever since we left home."

    "…my apologies sir. If I may be so bold, why are we here? This part of the galaxy has not been explored in 53 cycles – and is cursed according to many in the Academy. What is the significance of this Ark we seek?"

    "Ahh, yes, I should have explained earlier. Five thousand cycles ago there was a settlement on Genesis 5-3. We call the inhabitants of this settlement 'Predecessors'"

    "I read about these Predecessors once. Were they like us?"

    "No. These were dangerous creatures which were aggressive by nature. 4,759 cycles ago, a war was fought which destroyed the atmosphere on Genesis 5-3. A single orbital barge was put on autopilot for what is now Cygnus 5-2 – those onboard became the sole remnants of that race once the ecosystem on Genesis 5-3 collapsed. Before they left a service robot erased the memory of those on board so they would not know the turbulent history of their kind, and start anew. Over time those Predecessors would evolve into what we are today…

    “…”

    "…we seek the Ark because it contains a digital record of these Predecessors' genetic structure. The Council demanded its extraction so we are able to isolate what still remains of them within our own XNA, and eradicate the imperfections we still suffer from."

    "Understood, sir. Thank you. Just one more question – did these Predecessors have a name for themselves?"

    "Yes. Yes they did. They called themselves 'humans'. Their name for Genesis 5-3 was 'Earth'".
    Entrant 2 - Dance
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Judea, Roman Empire
    33 C.E.


    A sparkling current of electricity zapped the ground, disappearing as quickly as it came. Shortly thereafter, another current of electricity surged along the sandy ground below, with arms of blue electric current extending outwards in a looping circle. Moments later, a tiny sphere of electronic energy formed just above the ground, expanding outwards, the spherical object grew to no larger than three feet in diameter, with little electric currents dancing off its exterior shell for several moments.

    All of a sudden, the sphere disappeared, leaving behind a naked male, crouched down into the fetal position, on the red hot and singed ground below, where the sphere had formed.

    Standing up, the man’s digital scanners fixated on a sign, signifying the villa of the Roman prefect, in Latin and Aramaic. He began to walk down the road, guided by the light from of the nearby villa; he approached, halted by two guards.

    “Where does the naked Jew think he’s going?” The guard said, smiling, as he crossed spears with his companion, halting the man’s advance.

    “I am here for Christ,” he replied, looking past them.

    “Christ?” The guard scoffed. “The self-proclaimed ‘King of the Jews’, you mean? He’s in captivity. Be gone, Jew, before you feel the back of my hand.”

    The man ignores the threat and walks through the spears - neither man able to stop him, his strength easily overpowering their own. As he walks by, one of the soldiers grabs his right shoulder. His left hand reaches around, grabbing the soldier’s hand, crushing it. The soldier let out a shrill in agony, his knees buckled, as he falls to the ground.

    The other soldier took his spear and jabbed the naked man in the back, the iron point piercing the skin, hitting with a ping of metal on metal. The man turned around and backhanded the soldier so hard that the blow crushed the man’s iron helmet into his face, as blood exploded out his facial orifices. The man collapsed instantly to the ground, as the other rolled on the ground, weeping in pain.

    The man proceeded through the villa courtyard, crossing paths with several men, eyeing one of them.


    Scanning…
    Scanning…
    Identified…
    Pontius Pilate






    “Pontius Pilate, hand over Christ,”
    the man said.

    Pilate looked at the man in disgust. “Guards, seize him-“

    Before he could speak, the man grabbed Pilate by the throat, putting him to his knees, forcing him to gasp for air, as he choked.

    “Hand over Christ, now.”

    Pilate snapped his fingers, motioning for his men to release the prisoner.


    The man eyed the prisoner. “Jesus Christ. I am a robot, model Discovery T-1000, sent back through time under the Pope’s direct order, to procure your release in the name of the Vatican and return to the present year, 2048. Come with me if you want to live.”

    Jesus just stared at him, his jaw dropping slightly, in overwhelming disbelief.
    Entrant 3 - William the Marshal
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Just as the bartender cautiously placed the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster in my hands, blast visor firmly down, a bulky Slitheen jostled me and spilled my drink onto a nearby busboy robot. As it melted through the unfortunate bot's electronics with a slight hissing and a sound of digital​ distress, I turned to regard the Slitheen with a baleful glare. The oblivious creature, not realising the gravity of its error, merely shrugged and spat a glob of gelatinous stuff on my magenta suede shoes. This is what passes for politeness on the planet Raxicoricofallapatorius. Further incensed, I gave the Slitheen a left jab to what was probably its jaw. With surprising grace, the ponderous alien fell with a slight thump into a burly man who appeared to be talking to a corpse, or at least a rock star. The man turned, shoved the unconscious alien off of him, and selecting a target at random, shoved a Betelgeusean into a couple of Ood. It was at this point that I made a shocking discovery: Bar fights are the greatest form of entertainment since Brockian Ultra Cricket. I gleefully joined in the mayhem, laying about me with a bottle of Old Janx Spirit as the bar descended into chaos. It was brutal. Alliances were formed and shattered in seconds; friend could not be distinguished from foe. I was nostalgically reminded of my stint in Galactic prison, and even more forcefully of my time in the Galactic Senate just prior. As I wrestled a Silastic Armorfiend into submission, a couple Sontarans in the corner started shouting about defensive positions while unloading their blasters from behind an overturned table. After that, it all gets a bit... confused. I think my imprecise memories might be related to the fact that the level of Old Janx Spirit in my bottle was steadily dropping. I can remember the Dentrassi chefs running out from the kitchen, waving cooking utensils and screaming obscenities. After that, it becomes a blur again, until the point most of the bar had stopped fighting due to exhaustion, inebriation, death or a combination thereof, and had moved on to singing the Betelgeusan national anthem as scored for a chorus of off-key drunks. Then, I think I may have blacked out. The next thing I remember is waking up the next morning back aboard my ship with an official warning tacked to my forehead informing me that I had six hours to leave the planet before I was charged with a battery of crimes including, but not limited to, assault, public drunkenness, and possibly some light treason. I decided not to hang around. All in all, I would have to say it was one of the best nights - well, diurnal anomalies - I've spent on Ursa Minor Beta. Pity I never did get to drink my Gargle Blaster.
    Entrant 4 - Confederate Jeb
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The year is 2000. It is a pivotal year in the digital era, one that will influence generations to come. Massive corporations puppeteering the world governments behind the scenes are vying for supremacy. To the public, each one gives their own facade of how the technology of the future must be forged. Fatman Sacks argues for increased inter-connectivity between all electronic devices, present and future. The purpose of this is to monitor each and every person on the planet, not only to pinpoint advertisements based on their preferences but to also locate dissenters, those opposed to their ways, to be removed by highly trained assassins. Duhman Brothers proposes robot technology as the way of the future, to serve and provide humans and increase the standard of living for all. The complete control over a workforce that can serve as an army or a lone killer and the mere press of a button doesn't hurt either. Other companies propose such things as light speed travel, nanochips, and "Close Door" elevator buttons that actually work, each with their own nefarious purpose.

    But one man is in on the plot. Vin McFacesmasher is a hard boiled undercover cop on the wrong side of the law who made a discovery of epic proportions. While punching a drug dealer through three layers of concrete he discovered a warehouse of obviously evil elevator buttons all marked "Close Door." From that day on McFacesmasher has used his connections with the government, his finely oiled and always uncovered 56 pack of pure sex, and an assortment of laser guns that he also happened to find. But can McFacesmasher defeat robots armed with buzzsaws, elite hitmen who can make flies explode by punching the atoms that make up their wings, dinosaurs armed with lasers and elevator buttons, and really bright flashlights? Can he free the government from corporate influence and return it to being the oppressor rather than the oppressed? Will any women not be impregnated by his abs? Will he have the courage to make the tough decisions, like choosing between a robotic eye that has x-ray vision and shoots lasers or a machinegun arm that shoots x-rays and has laser vision? How WILL the world survive?

    The year is 2000. It is the past.

    The creative director peered over my shoulder. "This is the plot of some crappy 2013 spin-off of a Ubisoft franchise. You can do better that this." As he walked away, I could only think that Tom must have spiked the punch a bit too much this week.
    Entrant 5 - R-teen
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Out in the blue planes of the 'Another World' the concepts of day and night were long since forgotten, for brightness of no star could breach the constant presence of the thick clouds. Probably you would all go "Ow! Poor creatures!" on them now, but I bid you hold, for it isn't without its advantages. At least, they are deprived of the melancholy of the dusk, when stars bleed out tears of grief and sorrow.

    There, they are satisfied with the Electronic Lights that unlike stars, never set; and truly, it is no wonder they are so content with them, after all, 'Eternality is Bliss' was their motto when they were waving Mother Earth bye-bye from the windows of their spaceships.

    The digital watch on the wrist of the Number One showed that they should be asleep right now. Not that they have a classical need for clocks out in the 'Another World' anymore, mind, but they still use the device to have a clue as to how long is it that they're awake or when they are ought to go to their appointments and suchlike.

    "Something's bothering you?" Asked Number One, with a concerned expression on his face, unreadable behind the helmet that was covering all of his face.

    "No," Replied Number Two. Of all the discoveries human kind had made after seven hundred years from now, perhaps it was the by-product—the simplicity it all offered with regard to hiding emotions—that was cherished the most. Even the wavering of Number Two's voice easily escaped the notice of the other one through the scrambled voice-transition the small microphones, planted inside the helmets offered. "I'm fine." He continued. Two hidden teardrops trickled down the sides of his nose.

    Number One, reassured of his friend's well being, turned away and started walking back to his dormitory.
    Somewhere not far away in the top story of a blue tower, a robot felt reassured. If they're so keen on not submitting to us, at least they're well on their way to become us, it thought.

    In his solitude, Number Two took out a piece of paper—a memento of many, many years before—from his pocket and sat on the ground. Nowadays it was next to impossible to find a piece of them anymore. He didn't know why he had taken it out from his drawer that night. A long many years ago, it served as a advertising tract to attract people to come settle down in 'Another World', and now as extinct artifact. On the bottom of it, written in a blue bold script was: "Eternality is Bliss". Idly, he tore it apart, and rearranged it as "Bliss is Eternality".
    Entrant 6 - emotion_name
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    "Its what i want to do" said Jed.
    Theo knew that should the digital visor not be so obscuring, so cold, that the face beneath it would be firm, resolute. It was what they had spoken about for years, and it seemed the War of Discovery was indeed lost, the hope for a cure lost with it and as the last generation, they were destined to death anyway.
    The only variable in the whole sad destiny of it all was how they met there end, the eventual end for humans on the last outpost in Sector 3 Nova, the last remaining occupied outpost in space. Would the robot - like Kalakhs, warriors from some far off planet that despite its best efforts the best intelligence teams from earth could not locate, slaughter them as they had so many others? Would the disease released 25 years ago by the Kalakhs finally wipe out mankind before the more conventional weapons could? It was already at the fringes of earths atmosphere, maintaining outposts of non organic matter which was what the virus attacked was hard enough, but how could Earth, a whole planet, be made non organic?
    That was why Jed and Theo had created one more outcome, for themselves, one that started as a lighthearted joke and grew a life of its own the more they realised they would rather be the masters of their own fates.
    The Strength of Infection gauge inside Theo's electronic visor climbed slightly, seemingly in response to what they were planning on doing. Some others had found ways of having the gauge removed completely, initially these people were viewed as doomsday prophecists and not committed but now the wiseness in the defence of their actions was evident for the few remaining to see.
    "What use is a another clock on death" they had cried "time passes however you want to record it, we know that a cure will never be found, these suits will remain a part of us as the levels are so high death would come in mere hours to any of us who removed them. We know the disease is only going to get stronger, that it will eventually mutate and take on possibly thousands of different variants. Are we not committed by recognising these facts? Or are we committed to the original ideal of death, that it comes eventually and knowing your exact date doesnt help, it doesnt make the pill sweeter to swallow?"
    Almost synchronised, they both reached up and started removing there helmets, eventually losing the light of the visor and staring at each other in the flesh for the first time. Knowing time was short, and neither caring about appearance, they lost themselves in each other before falling asleep, never to wake up. Theo, just before she dropped into sleep, laid her head on Jeds chest and knew it was everything she had hoped it would be, and now it was over.
    Everything was over, so she slept.
    Entrant 7 - Darkan
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Zulan opened his eyes slowly, as if not sure if he should wake up or not. He looked over at his digital clock. It plainly showed he had two more hours before he needed to actually get up, but he decided it wasn’t worth to stay in bed any longer. He got up, got dressed and went to get a caffeine pill. Damn it, I sure do miss the smell of a hot cup of coffee, he thought.

    Savouring the caffeine pill, Zulan went directly to the armoury and looked at the weaponry he had gathered over the years. He had the usual saboteur equipment, explosives, motion mines, magnetic mines, flares and other improvised bombs.
    Will it ever be the same again, he wondered as he left the armoury and went back to the kitchen. Will this God damned war ever end?

    He could barely remember his life before all of this, the constant running and watching over the shoulder, the perpetual hunger and thirst. You had to scavenge but to do that you had to deal with the patrols. If you were lucky enough to not be shot on sight they would capture you and “enhance” you...

    Ever since people had started getting the electronic implants they had no longer been free. Not everyone had agreed to those, however, and those who could afford it had left, they ran to other parts of the world, but those places soon got in line with the so-called “New World Policy”.
    The policy was implemented after the discovery of the A-Tech, affective technology that altered human emotion. The worldwide marketing of A-Tech implants led to billions of people losing grip on reality. Some manifested violently, like wild animals, but they had been put down quickly, while others lost their minds and simply acted like zombies...they were killed as well.
    However, most transformed, the implants shut down their human side and they were basically turned to robots. A war had then started between the many and the few who had managed to run. At first they lived in remote areas, but soon got organised and started to fight back, disabling the chips, removing them and giving life back to those who had lost it. Then everything had changed again. The robots found ways of changing their implants and built better protection, better weapons, using new materials; they started to manufacture real machines until nothing could be done to save them.

    A distant beeping sound interrupted Zulan’s thoughts and he realised he had to go out. He suited up, went to the armoury and got his usual raid gear and headed over to the garage.

    Maybe today I will find someone, who knows, Zulan thought as he rode into the blinding light of the desert sun.


    TotW 188 - The New Kingdom
    ancient, sand, trade, Nile, gold
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Shankbot de Bodemloze
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    A new kingdom you say? Why... why should we bother? What will this ancient land do for us; a land once built on trade ​between prosperous nations, mighty kingdoms, powerful princes. Of course, young one, you wouldn't remember such days. It seems so long ago since the fall, yet the memory of that fateful day still burns bright in my mind, as clear as I see you now - but even clearer is how this land was before, before we were engulfed by the sand.

    But, I hear you say, the sand provides us with what we need, does it not? Yes, you would be right. Now it gives us what we need, but nothing more. Before gold would flow up and down the mighty rivers of our land, we would bask in its heat. Aye, we were greedy, but when people have too much they want more, and when they want more they have too much. Amidst the chaos of the fall people felt like what it was to be at the mercy of the land, and they did not like how that felt.

    When it was over and the survives walked the sand once more they were quick to place the blame, anything to try and advert their grief for which they had lost. Some blamed Nile, the god of our people, for this destruction. In truth if the fall was the work of Nile he had every right, we were greedy, insolent in our ways and our deeds yet despite the omens we did naught to repent for our sins.

    So we suffered, and for days the world went black, for days we waited in fear - in fear of what had happened, and what was to come. We wished for forgiveness but it was past that, the day of judgement had been and gone, and those of us who had survived felt like we were alive truly for the first time. Nile had spared us and we now had a duty to raise a new kingdom but in this we too failed, lost on the surface of this new world. We were of the old, unchanged to face the future; and so we perished, only a few of us, the 'sand-walkers' as you have named us, managed to settle and rebuild.

    It was a slow task, but one in which we managed to achieve over a great length of time - and now you are here child, to do what we were never able to do, forge a new kingdom, a better kingdom. Yet, now my time has come to pass on this task I can't help but think why bother? I have seen in the eyes of these men, at heart we are the same, we still succumb to the sins of our land.

    So you see I fear, not for my death, but for what humanity has made itself, and what lies ahead - I fear we will be subject to an endless cycle.
    Entrant 2 - William the Marshal
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The old man stared at them, the beardless youth and his companion. His breath rattled in his ancient throat as the boy made his proposition. He kept his silence as the boy finished speaking, mustering his fading strength to give his answer:
    "No."
    The boy almost choked on his next words, voice lost in shock. His grey-bearded advisor hastened to speak:
    "We can offer you double-"
    "Save your breath, wizard," spat the old man. "I don't want your gold. You have nothing that can make me do what you ask."
    The boy, giving his advisor a sharp look, adopted a conciliatory tone. "Surely," he pleaded, "there must be some manner in which we can find an equitable trade."
    The old man, straight-backed, answered with an angry spark in his eye, "Do not bandy words so. Speak the truth: You wish to buy my support. My answer is no."
    With a deep breath, the youth nodded, admitting defeat. "Very well then. Why do you refuse me? There are many in the land who still look to you to lead them. Why not tell them to support the true king?"
    Smiling grimly now, the old man answered. "You are no true king. You are a usurper, born of usurpers. You lay claim to that which belongs to another." He held up his hand to forestall protest. "Do not prattle to me of fathers, of signs and swords. You name yourself king of lands that belong to Rome."
    The boy and his counsellor looked at each other. "Rome is gone, old man." said the younger. "Rome betrayed us and fled. You were there."
    "Yes," said the aged man - the Roman - "I was there. I was there to see the greatest empire this world has known, an empire that stretched from the Nile to the Danube, from the sands of Syria to the Pillars of Hercules. I was there to see the statues and palaces, the temples and stadiums our artisans wrought. I saw the triumphs of emperors in the Eternal City and the valour of the legions in a stricken field. And now all that is lost, and boys rule over the birthplace of emperors and barbarians squabble over Rome's corpse."
    The boy nodded, and for the first time he seemed almost a man. "Rome has fallen," he agreed, "and warlords fight over the fragments of empire while her sons cower in the east. Rome is gone. But I do not seek to steal what was Rome's; Rome no longer rules here, and I am called to take up the mantle of kingship from my fathers. Rome abandoned us, long ago, and now we rule ourselves. Can you not aid me in this?"
    The proud old Roman shook his head. "I am Aurelius Martinus, Comes Britanniarum, a soldier of Rome. I will not betray her memory. You have your crown, Arthur Pendragon, but I cannot wish you joy of it. Go in peace; that is all the blessing I can give."
    Entrant 3 - Mr Harold
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The sky was a cacophony of crashing thunder, and the rain teemed from the heavens and clattered on the poised blades of the two brothers. They stood atop the ancient plateau, facing each other, steeling for the inevitable apex of events.
    “You will go no further, Nile. Destroy the stone and end this madness. Sekhmet is the God of destruction! You are a fool to believe he would make an honest covenant with a mortal.” Adio’s voice strained to make itself heard over the thunder. Nile’s face contorted with frustration.
    “Even the God of destruction cannot deceive me any more than this repulsive place has.” He spat, gesturing to the city of Alexandria beneath them. In one hand he held his blade, and in the other the weathered, black stone. Its blackness seemed to taint the veins on his hand and forearm, turning them an equal shade.
    In the centre of the plateau, between the brothers, the offering table stood anchored to the sand covered surface. It was upon this that Nile could finally achieve his destiny. It was so close now that he quaked with anticipation of the power he would obtain. Upon restoring the tainted stone to Sekhmet, the pact would be complete, Egypt destroyed, and Nile’s new kingdom, where he and nobody else would reign, granted to him.
    No more will you be deceived. No more will you bow and obey.
    The deep, haunting voice rang in his mind, and seemed to resonate from the stone. He peered down at it with his reddened, tired eyes.
    Do it. Now. Before he stops you.
    Adio yelled once again across the plateau with a quivering tone of desperation in his voice. “Brother, you must listen! He means to deceive you! After Sekhmet is revived, and all that remains of Egypt is ashes, what kind of kingdom do you hope to forge here? There will be no people, no gold, only darkness. Can’t you see?”
    “You are weak brother, you were always weak. Get out of my way. No one will stop me from getting the power I deserve.”
    Tears now hemmed Adio’s eyes. “You mean to trade the lives of all those in Egypt for a corrupt God’s promise of a kingdom? To choose yourself over millions? Can you not see that no power is worth that sacrifice?” A malicious smirk emerged on Nile’s face, and Adio realised that there was nothing of the brother he knew left.
    “Power, my dear Adio, is the ability to choose yourself over the weak.” He walked towards the offering table, leading with the stone in his hand, arm outstretched. The voice grew louder.
    Yes… Closer. Your kingdom awaits you.
    Adio leapt forward, tears on his cheeks, put himself between his brother and the table, and raised his sword with a loud cry. The fate of Egypt would now be decided by the clash of fraternal steel.
    Entrant 4 - Mega Tortas de Bodemloze
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Dominion of the New Kingdom: Winter's desecration and Springs sorrow.


    The billowing of the "Sands of Time" brings changes for both body and soul. Monday night, a quilt and terry cloth bathrobe kept winter's icy fingers from disrupting my dreams. Wednesday as the sunlight sank low in the western sky, a carpet of wildflowers flowed like the Nile delta and kept me company on the way to work. As I walked, I became lost in the sounds and sights that announced Springs temporary, yet energetic ascendance to the throne. Bumble bees hovered and butterflies floated over a variety of flowers that defied description. From palm size to almost microscopic, flower heads entranced one's vision. Blues, yellows, reds, purples, and fiery red-oranges all fought with passion to be the "Belle of the Ball"

    Rainy April days and nights bring despair to sun lovers, but exhilaration to others as raindrops deliver a soothing, delicate, lullaby as they dance upon rooftops and then cascade to the ground. Come sun up the pools that are thus created provide an artistic canvas for enthusiastic, mud covered, toddlers from eight to eighty. After these healthy rains mud is king of the hill and a dreaded curse for those of us that walk to work because mud covered shoes garner no cool points, once spied by the Da Boss.

    With May's arrival comes sun rays that ply their trade with unrivaled passion. The quilts and blankets that had kept nocturnal chills at bay, are now frantically tossed aside in a fruitless attempt to escape the nameless horror that will soon arrive. Saturday afternoon around three, I awoke in a pool of sweat, powerless in the knowledge that that vile, grotesque thing had now arrived. Perspiration... gross, oil covered, stench ridden sweat will now be my constant, emboldened companion for what seems like an eternity that I must now endure for the next five or six months. Yes my friends, the golden age of sun lovers is once again upon us. My sympathies at spring's sorrow all too real. Your few weeks of unrivaled beauty, horribly snatched away, and now soon, forever gone.


    Thus the ancient, annual, ritual is renewed, It's rapture ensnaring us all....

    Dominion of the New Kingdom: of Summer
    is here.
    Entrant 5 - Darkan
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Pilot – The New Kingdom


    There was silence and there shouldn’t have been silence. There was darkness and there shouldn’t have been darkness. There was something here and there shouldn’t have been anything...

    - Approach! Fear not, mortal one, for I do not resent you! Although you have fought against me, as valiantly and stubbornly as it was, I do not wish either to harm or smite you.
    - Am I dead? Have I not succeeded?
    - You are, yes and no, you have not.
    - How can this be then? I was certain I would either vanquish you or be cast away, but how can this have happened?
    - You understand little of how my ancient power manifests. I grant you, you have been the first to go down this path for as long as you did, yet you were farther from your goal than you realise.
    - Don’t for a moment think I will stop...not while I know who I am, not while I know who YOU are.
    - I do not think of such petty things. My plans are beyond the gaze of those such as you.
    - Face me now then, lest you are afraid...or a coward.
    - I am neither, so don’t pretend to challenge me. If I so desired, you would be forever lost in agony, nothing but utter despair and perpetual misery would follow you...but I told you, I do not wish you harm. Instead, I have a task for you, one for which you fit nicely.
    - And if I deny you this, because rest assured I will, wouldn’t it be better to end it here and now?
    - Don’t you first want to hear my proposal? HAHAHA! You amuse me! This is not a plea. This is not a trade; I do not offer alternatives, a reward if you agree or punishment if you refuse. I am merely telling you what shall be. You are to be born anew!
    - You are more foolish than you think. Why would you permit me another chance, another life?
    - Worry not! You shall be a glorious follower, maybe even my most glorious. You are to be given birth on the banks of the river Nile and you are to rise to the top amongst your brethren.
    - Where is this place? I have never heard of it.
    - In a different realm, one similar to yours. You will bathe that world in blood, conquer every land, even the great sands, you will destroy the gold statues of their gods, you will forge a new kingdom and you will do all of this in my name.
    - I WILL NOT!
    - You will, in time. First you need to be reborn.
    - I have sworn to destroy you and I shall. Even in another realm, I will find a way.
    - ENOUGH!

    There was silence again, there was darkness again...


    - Push, hard, push!
    Entrant 6 - Diurpaneus
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Ship diary, 18 may 1687

    We are experiencing heavy seas from three days now but she is holding well, that’s not what i can say about the crew, morale in not so good, two of the new recruits have the west nile fever; tried to cheer up the other lads with some drinks the other day and for the time being they seem content. That spanish rum we bought in Old Providence had done it’s job after all but his royal majesty, king James II should stop the trade with Spain now, as the war seems imminent; they sell only bad stuff anyway. As for the „Gregarious” the hunt is still on, we lost her in the storm but with the damage it has taken in the fight i presume Raimund will not risk his ship and crew out at sea for to long so he must be heading for the coast and take a south route after. He must not escape me this time, the Governor of Nassau orders were explicit; not to capture it...

    - Pardon Sir, but we spotted land ahead.
    - I presume no sign of „Gregarious” yet.
    - True, but the weather is improving and we shall have a greater line of sight, the sun is finally up.
    - Very well James,carry on now. I will be on deck in a moment.
    The captains red tunic was dirty but even in this state it imposed respect. His rank in the Royal Navy would mean nothing far here on the seas, away from London, but the men saw what he is capable off since the fighting begun, and only the storm saved „Gregarious”. Just one man was injured and in such a fight sailors know how to distinguish a skilled commander from providence.
    The coast was still far away but with the spyglass he could see Tulum, or El Castillo as spanish named it, an ancient pyramid form the former world. The sand beach shined like gold in the sun and sea birds were flying above in circles.

    - Ship spotted, port side! The man on the watch yelled. Bells started ringing.

    The captain directed the spyglass into that direction. A fast ship was heading towards them with full sails. „Gregarious” !

    - All hands on deck! The captain ordered.

    - So he stopped running in the end,said James.
    - He knew he would be spotted with the clear sky so he decided to end this. A courageous man i must say. Perhaps with all his masts he could have tried to outmaneuver us, but like this he knows he is lost, either we catch him and he dies running, or he tries to board us. His chances are slim, but nevertheless he must act. That’s what i would have done in his place. Man the cannons boys! And keep her at bay! Wait till she is on firing range then steer it to have a firing line! No moment to soon...


    TotW 189 - A Man's Best Friend
    loyalty, love, geometry, mystique, torque
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Mr Harold
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    30 years of my life has been invested into that place.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    in·vest
    Verb
    To devote one's time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.


    Can I truly say I have ‘invested’ anything? I had no ambition to reap any form of boon or benefit from working here. I only sought to exist. To make a nominal sum of these meaningless digits that society has deemed valuable so as to keep on existing.
    The place of which I speak, my place of work for the last 30 years, is ‘Torque Mart’. I started work here as a salesman fresh out of high school, and here I have remained. It has been just as awful and stale as every other part of living. The only thing that made it bearable was Stella. Stella always understood.
    I am unsure whether I have felt what people call love,
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    love
    Noun
    An intense feeling of deep affection.


    not towards my late drunken abusive father, nor towards my fragile and equally drunken mother. Nor to any member of the opposite sex, or in fact any of my own. But I am sure that the closet thing I have ever felt to ‘love’ was what I felt towards Stella.
    She had been around even longer than I – hushed away in a remote corner of the expansive car lot. Customers would come and go, as would the cars. But Stella always remained, ageing as I aged, avoided as I was avoided. We seemed to have isolation in common. Soon enough I was coming to the far corner of the lot every day to talk to her. She was a great listener.
    I had no idea what the people didn’t see in her - The bent and warped geometry of her grill, the suggestive and alluring mystique in the curvature and rust of her hood. Day after day people walked by her. We developed an unspoken loyalty to one another: Here we would remain, the eyes of the world averting from our detriment, together. Together we would forever be out of place.

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    loy·al·ty
    Noun
    A strong feeling of support or allegiance.
    Today, I came into work, in much the same way as I always do, name tag affixed to my white collared shirt, walking purposefully yet without eagerness towards the showroom. I passed my usual glance over to Stella, only to stop dead in my tracks upon the realization that she wasn’t there.
    It couldn’t be, I thought, surely. Only an impression of rust and oil remained in her stead.
    The branch manager laughed when he saw the desperation on my face, pleading him as to her whereabouts.
    “That hunk of rust was no good to anyone! I sent it away for scrappage. Probably a cube by now.”

    I doubt that anyone will read this, but it seems customary to leave a testimony when one does what I have chosen to do. We’ll be together soon, Stella.
    Entrant 2 - Dance
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    July, 2001
    Monrovia, Liberia

    A crouched down man swiped his hand across the dirty pebbles of the dirt road, beneath him. He was dressed in a simple while polyester dress shirt, with the sleeves rolled up to buns, above the elbows. He wore simple grey cotton dress pants, complementing his black dress shoes - the man was an odd sight for a country rife with civil war for the better half of the past decade.

    The man could hear the faint sound of rap music in the distance. Gunshots could be heard, in an awkward combination, with the music.

    I got a pit named P, she niggarino
    I got a house in the hills right next to Chino
    and I, think I got a black Beamer
    but my dream is to own a fly casino
    like Bugsy Seagel
    and do it all legal


    Within moments, a white Cadillac Eldorado convertible turned around an empty intersection, down the street, twenty meters away, and it came slowly up the hill towards the man - the vehicle occupied with a driver and a man in the front passenger seat, with a man and two half-naked women in the backseats, one woman on each side of him.

    The man in the backseat was laughing - as he held a short AK-47, by the barrel, with a near finished cigar in his mouth. The car stopped abruptly short of the nicely dressed Caucasian man, whom moved his fancy Ray-Ban shades, and wiped the sweat off his forehead with his forearm.

    "Viktor!" The man exclaimed, jumping out of the vehicle.

    Viktor just smiled, as he extended his hand out. "Chuckie, it's been awhile."

    "Oh, I love it, brother," said Chuckie, as he slowly approached a brand new black Lamborghini VT Roadster.

    "Model 1999. 526 horse power. 605 Newton meters of torque. She's the real deal, Chuckie. Just what you wanted."

    "My dude, I'm going to get my father to sign that arms deal; tanks, choppers, all of it," said Chuckie, as he leaned inside the vehicle, feeling the leather.

    The man crossed his arms, smiling. "Loyalty, Chuckie. That's all I've ever needed. It is my job to empower freedom fighters, like your father. This vehicle is just a token of my goodwill and continued friendship with your family."

    "Yeah, my dude," said Chuckie, leaning back out of the vehicle, sliding his hand across the glossy exterior. "Perfect geometry," he said, crouching down, looking the vehicle down, side to side. "This is my baby."

    Viktor laughed, marveling at the simplicity of acquiring the vehicle for the favored son of his friend, the President of Liberia. "This, I imagine, will indeed finalize the weapon's deal, we talked about?"

    "Absolutely, brother," said Chuckie, paying little attention to anything but the car. "I'm going to call her, 'Mystique'."

    Chuckie pulled himself away from the vehicle and extended his hand to Viktor, who simultaneously tossed the keys to him.

    "You got a deal,"
    Chuckie said, slipping a grin.
    Entrant 3 - Confederate Jeb
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Hope. Love. Courage. The prophet had gone on for three hours now on the virtues our culture stood for and needed more now than ever. His aura of mystique held his audience in rapture, his carefully chosen words soothed their troubled ears. The entire time I was content to keep my position on the fourth floor, leaning against the columned railing that hundreds of people were peering over hoping to catch a glimpse. This was history, after all.

    At last the proclamation ended and the crowd dispersed back to their homes with a new found inner strength. I watched as the prophet was escorted into the inner sanctum by royal guards clad in full sets of steel plate. A silent minute passed, then two. When I thought I was alone in the great hall I began to descend the stairs to the main floor that but ten minutes ago was filled to the brim with a sort of human geometry. Without the moving mass the eloquent mosaic that was the floor could now be seen. Tales of heroes and epic deeds detailed in rubies and sapphires were spread out in rows, with a word describing the attribute embodied above in a scroll of emerald. One such word caught my eye as I passed over. Loyalty. I paused in reflection for a moment. The story was that of Cin-dir-dragar, the knight who was betrayed time and time again by his allies hoping to gain wealth and power by siding with the Dark Ones. Yet he remained loyal to his king and his people and was blessed with a fruitful, happy life. Legend said that his sons founded the kingdoms that made up the Confederacy, but that was only a legend. After all, if his line was so pure, why did the people now need a prophet to urge them forward, to stand tall in the face of evil? To side with the just because it was the right thing to do was simply not in fashion. Better to hide in your house and keep to yourself, and pray that your city did not fall prey to the dark magic that had engulfed so many before.

    My reflection finished, I walked to the end of the hall where the guards and the prophet had stood. The great door that separated them from me was impossible to open from the great hall. But like any good rogue, I had studied my prey, and went instead to the leftmost torch along the wall. A quick twist created all the torque needed to open a secret, secondary passageway. It was a longer route to be sure, but it was hidden from the guards and would lead me to the inner chambers that only a dozen were allowed entrance into. The mission would of course be a success; the odds were in my favor. Yet as I began the slow walk down the ancient corridor, that word filled my head with thought.
    Entrant 4 - Dude with the Food
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Right back in the days of the long dead, man had a best friend. Many of you I see before me have images in your heads of cavemen hunting deer with a pack of wolves. You see dogs throughout all periods of history whether living or dying alongside their masters. You see the ultimate bond of loyalty, none other so strong between species. And you think to yourselves, had man not befriended dog where would we be? On that fateful day 8,000 years ago, in all his mystique, a brave man stood to a proud wolf and called him equal. And you all believe that to be one of the proudest moments of unity in all history.

    You are untrue.
    Unlearned.
    Unintelligent.
    Utterly ridiculous in your beliefs.

    You think a dog is a man’s best friend?
    A mere dog?
    What can a dog do?
    Run around after sticks. Defile public locations. Rip a man’s windpipe out with its teeth. It is not a dog. It is not tame. It is a wolf and a wolf is a wolf. No matter how cute, no matter how small, it has sharp teeth, unnatural speed, uncontested stamina and above all, a predator’s instinct.
    Let me tell you the true best friend of man.

    Domesticated by the ancient Indus civilization, the chicken has been on this planet thousands of years. From humble beginnings as exotic pheasants, they adapted and have become a true companion of humanity.
    Firstly, they provide for humans in ways dogs can’t. Unless you’ve ever had your dog lay you an egg? Didn’t think so and when did you last make a cake or omelette from moulted fur? Sounds delightful.
    Gallus Domesticus is a naturally peaceful creature. A Celtic warrior could rely on his dog to rip off an enemy’s torque with its jaws but he could rely on his chicken to feed his family. That’s of course if the dog wasn’t killed first.
    That isn’t to say that chickens are chickens. Cock-fighting was often seen as inspirational to Roman gladiators and soldiers. Chickens can make great guards, arguably as much as their canine contemporaries.
    Again, chickens and their owners often form strong emotional ties, again, in many cases stronger than that a dog would. The love between humanity and chickenkind is undeniably strong.
    For one final time, chickens are many times superior than any other animal in contention with human devotion. Bear that in mind all of you now, you know the truth. Spread the word and enlighten the masses!
    Thank you all.
    By the way, have we finished geometry yet or do we have to suffer another hour of drawing lines?
    Entrant 5 - Darkan
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Episode 1 – Best Friends

    Morning had come. The sun started to slowly rise from its slumber, as if awakened by the chanting of the sacred hymns. Almost the entire city had gathered as it was the day that boys would become men. The elder priests were leading the procession, followed by the bearers of the sacred regalia needed for this ritual. As the eldest of the priest raised his arms in pious worship of the Sun God, protector and watcher, the singing stopped and not even a word was heard from the mass of people that was present.

    His old, guttural voice broke the silence:
    - It is time to begin. May the claimants step forward for all to see.
    As a group of youngsters appeared, surrounded by the bearers, the high priest continued to speak:
    - Today they may claim their place among men, the golden torques of maturity. Are you prepared?
    - We are, the boys shouted in one voice.
    - Let us drive them to the sacred marshes, so that they may come back as men.


    Four days later, as night fell over the marshes, Ranofer and Sihathor had split up from the larger group of boys.

    - Rani, what are we doing? Why don’t you want to go back?
    - And do what Siha, Ranofer asked his friend. You know none of them take the trials seriously. They will just stay ‘round the fires, cooking river frogs and fish, talking about the girls they love.
    - But everybody does this Rani, Sihathor complained. You know how it is, you wait in the marshes for a fortnight, go back home and receive your armband.
    - Not for us Siha, we will truly be men, Ranofer replied. Now shut up and follow me.

    As the two boys got deeper and deeper in the marshes, only the moon guided their steps and provided light, though the eerie mystique of this place seemed not to touch the youngsters. The path was twisted and they had to tread carefully. They had spoken of this moment for years, preparing as best they could. They had grown up together and had learned everything together. Ranofer was the better hunter and tracker; he could find his way around easily while Sihathor was a better student. “I want to become a master builder”, Sihathor had told his friend once, as they had argued over the importance of mathematics and geometry.

    As they reached a strange clearing, guarded by tall stonework, a deep voices bellowed:

    - Stop, young ones, walk no further. It is here that you will be tested.
    - Who are you, a defiant Ranofer demanded.

    - More important is who you are, young ones. You, Ranofer, strong and proud and you, Sihathor, honest and humble. I have three trials for you both, of Body, Mind and Loyalty. If you fail them, you shall be deemed unworthy, but if you pass, I shall bestow upon each one a gift. Are you ready?

  6. #46

    Default Re: TotW Story Index

    TotW 190 - Time Machine
    star, hatred, Victoria, rain, lord
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Dance
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Nov. 11, 1813
    My Dearest Victoria,

    My love and my life, with each day's long yore, I yearn to hold you in my arms again. I cannot explain how it disheartens me that we cannot spend every moment together, but this is something we must do, not just for Upper Canada, but for old King George across the sea.

    The night was long and miserable. It poured sparingly throughout the night and I spent most of it awake, unable to conjure the right words. Of course, you know me best, my love. My weakness is my unrivaled ability to procrastinate. Thought I could not think of the words, I looked up at the darkened sky above, where I saw sifts of clear skies in between the abundance of clouds. What seemed moments, had taken hours. But I found your star, and it had shone brightly. It was a reaffirmation that you were safe, and I hoped deep in sleep, not worrying yourself of me, as I know you often do, my love.

    The rain poured mercilessly on our march, this morning. The conditions wrought the soldiers into laziness and a demoralized state. The muddied road slopped around beneath us. Our feet were cold and aching, and each step forward was fervently contended by nature, as each of us struggled to slog through the terrible road conditions. I believe we just exerted more energy than we should have, during what otherwise would have been a relatively routine march for us.

    By mid-morning, the rain has ceased, but the lingering conditions we face pay tribute to the unforgiving rains that fell upon us. It's a brisk morning, and the unending chill further dampen our spirits. We are but miles from the American army now, but soon we shall engage in this inevitable conflict before us. The rumor from the scouts are that the American army numbers near ten thousand men in strength. They vastly outnumber us. But I will not let this deter me from my duties to our homeland and the Crown across the sea. May the Lord have mercy on us, and might he grant us the strength and courage we require for what we are about to endure.

    I would be a fool to say I was not nervous of the impending battle. In the east, the Americans demonstrated their hatred of us by putting their torches to York. They showed no mercy for the populace there. Now, they seek to march on Montreal, and sever our nation in two. Here we stand now, near the farmstead of John Crysler. He has formed localized support for our force, and given us a proper stay, on his land. We will not allow the Americans to take this land, as they did in the east. Our convictions here are different. We shall not falter.

    I shall write you soon, my love.

    James


    *Historical note: This decisive British/Canadian victory prevented the American advance on Montreal.
    Entrant 2 - Confederate Jeb
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    A light rain was falling as my cab made it's way down Avenue des Champs-Elysees. I stared blankly out the window, watching the lights reflect off the wet windowpane. I was heading to the unveiling of the new play by Monsieur Lefurgey; a dramatic, somber tale of unrequited love in revolutionary France. A petite duchess in love with a common soldier who in turn sought her hand in marriage, but only for her title and property. Oh how the bitter irony stung! My melancholy only grew more bitter with the rain. The drizzle turned into a downpour as the cab arrived in front of the theater. Le Grand Palais it was called, for the man who owned it could not stay silent regarding his ego and styled himself a prince amongst the wealthy upper crust of Paris. The hatred the people felt for his arrogance was only rivaled by the affection doted upon him by his boot-lickers. Even now they flocked around him as he greeted his guests at the entrance. I had hoped to make my way into the theater without his interruption, but the buffoon caught sight of me at the last second.

    "Bonsoir, Monsieur Bastian. How goes your work?" He always wanted to talk about my work at the bank, as if it were somehow a demeaning topic. The Lord only knew why he thought such things.

    "Good, as usual. I have my ticket here, if you would just let me go find Victoria."

    "Ah sweet cherie, the star of our production! She is backstage, prepared for the night of her life. You will have to wait until the play is over to speak with her, lest her concentration be broken."

    "If you insist." I hastily made my way inside with no intention of listening to that buffoon. My mind would not rest until I had spoken with her, and in my haste to learn the truth I part my way through the gossiping crowd like Moses parted the Red Sea. At last I reached Victoria's door. Oh how my heart thumped; should it have burst from my chest it would have been less painful. "Mon amour, I must speak with you."

    Victoria opened the door, in full costume and makeup. She looked divine. I hesitated, unsure if I truly wanted to go forward with my course of action, but I had to know. "Raoul, I am busy preparing for the show. For now you must be content with seeing me on stage."

    "It cannot wait. The rumors, the romances behind my back, I have to know. Do you love me?"

    "I have no idea where you heard about such things, but you must know that I love you with all of my heart."

    "Do you speak the truth, or are our roles merely a reversal of this play, and my love unmet?" She looked down, as if contemplating how to respond, but then backed away and shut the door. I slumped to the ground in despair.
    Entrant 3 - Darkan
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Episode 2 – Victoria aut mors

    Ranofer seemed eager to start the last trial, he felt prepared and as he looked over at his friend, he saw the terrified look on his face. Sihathor was shaking and if he had been able to speak he couldn’t have said why. He had a bad feeling about all of this but he couldn’t muster enough courage to say something... he just stood there, trembling, looking at Ranofer as if he wasn’t there. The first two trials had been difficult, but where one had lacked prowess, the other had helped. The voice had not forbidden them from helping one another. Now, however, was the time for the last trial, that of Loyalty, and the voice had decreed that they could help eachother no longer.


    Although it was a warm night, an icy cold rain had started, but it seemed to have different effects on the boys. Ranofer welcomed it, raising his arms towards the heavens, towards the moon and the stars, while Sihathor seemed to loathe it, as if it brought down on him all the hatred in the world...he could feel it seeping in, taking hold of him. He couldn’t understand what was happening to him.


    - The time is now, the voice said.


    Sihathor didn’t know what to do. Whereas before they had been given instructions and tests, now there were only these words. Why am I feeling this way? He looked up at the sky and that is when he first felt the rain. He could feel the energy, the life inside each drop of water that fell on his face, he could hear the wind speaking to him, not like before, but actually speaking to him. He closed his eyes, yet he could see places far away. He could somehow distinguish the boys that had come with them to the marches, the other claimants, he could see the city walls and those that stood watch on top of them. He thought of his mother and instantly he was beside her. There she was, sleeping, with his four year old sister in her protecting arms.
    A sharp pain interrupted his thoughts and a red veil covered his eyes. The rage and hatred he had felt before came bursting back, only for a second, but strong enough to make him faint. As he regained consciousness, the voice spoke to him.


    - Rise, Sihathor, for you have completed the three trials. It is time to receive your gift from me, the Lord of Shadows, and I bestow upon you the gift of true sight, so it may serve you from now on until the day your task is done.



    With that, the voice grew silent. Sihathor was left alone, contemplating the lifeless body of his best friend. He knew it to be true, yet he couldn’t remember how or when it had happened...he had struck down Ranofer with his own hand.
    Entrant 4 - Mhaedros
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Starship Centurion slowly flew through the universe as comets and asteroids rushed by the large windows. In the vast, cold darkness outside stars and suns, planets and galaxies were like small spots of light, but inside it was light and warm. At a small table in the starship’s restaurant a couple sat together. They were both reading through, and writing in, two identical blue books. The woman, professor River Song, finished a sentence and then looked up from the diary, at her husband.

    “Have you done the one with Lord Casey and Lady Victoria yet? That one was fun.” Her lips hinted on a playful smile. “You were very romantic I remember...sweetie.”

    At the other side of the table the Doctor looked embarrassed and took a large sip of his tea.

    “Romantic, me? No no no!” He straightened his bow-tie with a certain satisfaction, his head bowed to hide the widening smile. “I thought I just inspired hatred”.

    River looked at him, the smile still on her lips, but her eyes betrayed some deeper sadness. “You know I love you and always will. You’ve not been travelling alone, have you?”

    The Doctor didn’t answer, but took a bite from his scone instead. Outside the Milkyway became visible behind a rain of asteroids.

    “Somewhere down there they are.” he finally said. “Amy and Rory. I let them go before it was too late.”

    She looked down at her tea and with a sigh the distress passed from her eyes.

    “What will you do now? You could always...take me on another adventure sweetie?”

    The Doctor frowned. “Why? What’s going to happen?” he asked.

    Her eyes sparkled “Spoilers,” and and across the table the Doctor rose, hand offered out for River to take, and then they were running, running as they always were, down the corridors, round the corners and there, light blazing from the windows, it stood, waiting to carry them through time and space.

    And as River hurried to the control panel in the center of the Tardis, the Doctor took one last look around the sterile walls of the spaceship and in a small window he could see the Milkyway hide again, behind stars and planets. “Geronimo!”
    Entrant 5 - ☩ Lord Inquisitor Derpy Hooves ☩
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    ☩☩☩☩☩Age of Janak☩☩☩☩☩

    Before the gates of Restev came an armored rider, holding in one hand the reins to the horse and in the other the banner of the Janak Empire, which depicted on a navy blue field inside a white circle outline with a thick white cross inside the circle, a golden eagle with the wings stretching upwards though only the side view was depicted on the banner; in front of the eagle was gold orb. To the soldiers atop the gate, the armored rider was definitely foreign, yet they did not recognize the banner the rider was held. As expected, the rider halted right before the gate waiting for someone to be greeted by. In a couple minutes the gate opened up, and a man who seemed the gatekeeper walked out to speak with foreign armored figure. He took a few steps and said in a crackly sounding voice, “What is it you want?”

    After hearing the gatekeeper’s question, the foreigner flipped up the visor on the helmet, the gatekeeper immediately recognized it to the facial features of a woman. The woman shouted out in a voice the man compared to wool, “Hail gatekeeper of the fair city of Restev. On behalf of the Immortal Emperor of the Empire, I, Victoria Herald to the Word of Unity, come bearing news for you, your lord and the people of Restev. I am here to request the peaceful incorporation of Restev into the Empire, of course with complete acquiescence of your lord.”

    The gatekeeper was taken aback, he was neither expecting this nor Victoria’s use of the local language when she was clearly not from anywhere around Restev. All he could was reply with a blunt, “What?” Victoria smirked; pulling out a scroll she said, “Present this to your lord. Within this scroll are the terms for the incorporation of Restev into the Empire. Your lord has until mid-afternoon tomorrow to make his decision.” Her horse moved forward and Victoria handed the scroll to the gatekeeper, then she left.

    ☩☩☩☩☩

    As planned, Victoria came back to Restev mid-afternoon, though whereas the day before was clear and sunny, today it was dark and raining, giving Victoria an ominous feeling. After a few minutes of waiting, the gate opened and the gatekeeper walked out. “Lord Kav rejects the offer the terms of our surrender.” said the gatekeeper.

    “How unfortunate, Restev has only to gain from joining the Empire. Like the one star in the sky that is hidden by the rain clouds, the Empire desires all people be united under one banner,” after this, Victoria sighed saying “Since a peaceful exchange failed it is time for the warriors to have their say. We bear no hatred towards Restev, but its incorporation into the Empire is the only way for true peace to exist in this world.” With that, Victoria turned her horse around and went back to where she came: the Janakan army which was poised and ready to besiege Restev.
    Entrant 6 - Mank
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    “TWO MINUTES BEFORE THE THREAD CLOSES?!?!” screamed the mouse in utter disbelief. “LIES! LIES AND DECEIT!” the small rodent furiously roared with all the hatred his small furry frame could muster.

    Squeakers, a young hot-tempered mouse, had recently thought of the best idea in Tale of the Week history…only to be sidetracked in the Thema Devia until moments before deadline. Defeated, he stared longingly at a picture of his muse, a cutout of Queen Victoria, and whispered “One day you will know me. One day I will be the most famous writer in all of Mousedom! I will be known as Lord Squeakers, Defender of the Royal Cheese!”

    Outside the small church a violent storm raged. Rain hammered down in thick sheets against the roof as lightning illuminated the richly colored stained glass. “Cheeses!” thought Squeakers, “what an awful night!”

    Suddenly a small glimmer appeared in the center of the room. Faint at first, the light grew steadily brighter until it erupted into a cacophony of color and sound, bright and glorious as a new-born star. “AIEEEEEEEEEEE!” howled Squeakers as he cowered against the wall, “Struck by lightning! Struck by lightning!”

    Suddenly the light faded and standing in its place was an old but distinguished mouse wearing a bright red jacket. “You weren’t struck by lightning,” the stranger remarked casually with an old smile on his whiskers.

    Moving slowly forward, Squeakers whispered “Who...who are you?”

    The handsome mouse laughed with a deep booming voice and said, “I have come to grant you your wish Squeakers. Just this once you will be given the chance that all writers dream of…to be able to go back and finish your story before the deadline!”

    Squeakers was speechless. After another great flash of light he found himself back in his small mouse hole. He checked himself to see if any important parts were missing, then slowly peeped his head out of the door in the floorboards. Outside the light was fading, and the storm was slowly moving in. He had been given the one thing all writers dream of…extra time.


    TotW 191 - Prince Rhaegar
    noble, sword, beloved, silver, prince
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Dude with the Food
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    “You see before you heresy! Open the eyes you call your own and observe damnation here unfolding before you. See not the accursed witch branded unjustly but the noble and honourable messenger of God. You burn not a demon but an angel, worthy of seat in heaven.

    Two summers passed and this girl, guided by the Lord himself, did raise sword and standard to your people. The nation you call your own oppressed and opposed the freedom God did grant her and he is betrayed in his will by who shall become eternally damned in his presence. Did one such mere serf rise to glory without divine conduct? Who is an ignoble peasant to lead the Dauphin Prince into kingship? She is beloved by the Father above and great sins committed hours since will become noticed in his ever watchful eye.

    Our God has nurtured her into nobility from nothing, testament to his power. You fight a losing war in which he graces France with silver he creates from dirt. Then you attack his jewel, and lose every time. At the very height of her honour, you seize her and bypassing chivalrous laws stated plainly by the Lord above, you execute her for heresy!
    Heresy is defying the Lord. You have killed God’s chosen and your lives are broken! Who is the real heretic here? Jeanne D’Arc shall walk his paradise while the Devil rots in each of you!”

    Two armoured swordsmen emblazoned with gold leopards on scarlet hauled the cursing Frenchmen away. A crowd had gathered around the speaker, gazing in awe at his words.

    Silence reigned for long minutes after as local attention turned to the smouldering ashes of a martyr’s funeral pyre. The smoke drifted steadily skywards, on a path high into the heavens. Tense purpose hung about the iron cloud and as it passed the English pennants, the seemingly withered.

    Finally a young knight spoke solemnly to the people.
    “A grave sin has been endured by our valiant enemy. Let us find comfort in forgiveness that we may forget heinous crimes committed by our lords. Let us honour this most glorious of foes.”
    And with that a sullen cheer arose from deep in the hearts of each man and woman, warrior and clergyman, noble and commoner alike. They tied two wooden stakes in a cross before her last stand in memory of her strength a to show for the people of the morrow and left her spirit to embark on one last journey.
    Entrant 2 - William the Marshal
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Aerys cackled with insane glee as he supervised the loading of the wildfire. Jaime stood silently while the Mad King gave orders to his beloved pyromancers for the distribution of "the substance". Suddenly, he whirled and stalked away, his emaciated hands rubbing at the cuts the Iron Throne's blades had inflicted on his pale arms. As he followed the king back into the Red Keep, Jaime could hear him muttering to himself: "They'll all die yet... die, yes, die, they'll burn... Rhaegar won't fail me, not him, never him, he's loyal, not like that *********** Connington, traitorous son of a w****... Should have had him killed, yes, burned, burned..." His frenzied babble died away as they entered the throne room. He stared, lovingly, at the dragon skulls that lined the walls of the cavernous chamber, then laughed with malicious glee as his eye fell upon the scorched floor where he held his "trials". Jaime reacted to none of this, remembering the lectures Ser Barristan and the Lord Commander had given him about holding his tongue. As the Mad King glanced about the room, he happened to notice the young knight. Grinning, he beckoned. Jaime obediently turned to face Aerys. "What do you think, boy? Will the prince bring those damned traitors to justice?" Jaime tried to think of the safest answer to give: "Your Grace, I'm sure Rhaegar will triumph. He has right on his side."
    Suddenly furious, Aerys shouted at his Kingsguard "Of course he does! He is a Targaryen! Blood of the dragon! Scion of Valyria, destined to rule!" Jaime remained silent as Aerys' fury grew. "And yet this Robert, this ********** Baratheon w****son, thinks he and his shaggy Stark friend can rebel against me? And yet he can win battles? He is the darling of the people and my name is cursed across the land? Rhaegar will change all that. He'll meet the *********** at the Trident and put his whole army to the sword - all except the stag and the wolf, oh yes, yes. He'll bring them here and I'll give them a taste of what happened to Stark's father, yes. Their blood might be noble but they'll burn just as well as the next man, burn, yes, yes..."
    Wisely, Jaime still refrained from speaking. But Aerys wasn't done; he wanted Jaime to react.
    "And your father will burn too, oh yes. I know he's plotting against me. He's never forgiven me..." Aerys began to giggle. "I wanted to ******* his wife, you know... your mother, mmm, yes. He hates me, but he's too smart to rebel, mmmm. They say he s***s gold, but no gold or silver can help against the blood of the dragon! He's a traitor, but he'll burn! They'll all burn! Rhaegar will bring them to me, pleading for mercy, but I'll burn ALL OF THEM!"
    Jaime remained silent as the Mad King's screeches rent the air.
    Entrant 3 - Confederate Jeb
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    "This just might be the worst anime I've ever watched. Next they'll be telling me that giant enemy crabs are a part of Japanese history." I muttered as I finished the last bit of Sprite lingering at the bottom of the can. For the past few hours I had taken the plunge into a show with yet another unpronounceable Japanese name, though it might be because I'm lazy and never tried to pronounce it. It's English name roughly translated to "King Arthur's Magical Knights" or some such thing. What can I say? I was really bored and had finished off my queue last week. But only six episodes in and I was starting to regret my decision. Certainly the silver-haired vampires didn't help. Or the alien prince that used a sword that looked more like a jackhammer. Or the faux medieval music that made bad J-pop enticing. The latest of assaults to my sanity was King Arther using the moon to crush an enemy army. I paused right there, debating if I truly wanted to see this thing through. Very little had been entertaining so far, but once I start something I always do my best to finish it. To my horror, however, I realized that this was a 56 episode anime. That ended the debate right there.

    I returned to the main page of Google, unsure of what to start watching next. The internet was abuzz with news about the latest Game of Thrones episode or whatever was happening in Dr. Who, but neither of those shows seemed interesting. I could simply rewatch a beloved series or two, but I was more in the mood for something new. Maybe rather than historical settings, I should try something about business. As I scanned through the list of modern shows concerning businesses, backstabs, murder (which I don't think normally happens), an old NBC miniseries caught my eye. It was called Noble House, and included a cover with Pierce Brosnan standing in front of scenic Hong Kong. Needless to say I was intrigued. The synopsis discussed man international trading company, bank runs, and Chinese crime lords. Though I would have preferred a series that didn't involve unnecessary action scenes, the setting justified it in this case. With only four episodes, I was convinced that this was a much better use of my Saturday afternoon than watching that butchering of Arthurian legend. After a long and incredibly boring search for the series on the internet, with Hulu and Netflix being of no help, I was left with grainy videos on Youtube.

    Kids, the moral of this story is that trying to watch shows that aren't modern or popular is hard. No, seriously, woe to you that enjoys a series to the beat of their own drum.


    TotW 192 - On The Canal
    canal, dusk, romance, reflect, tourists
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - R-teen
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    A mild wind was blowing, making the bottom of his midnight blue overcoat dance a mischievous dance in the cold theatre of dusk. The sun was pouring the orange powder of its all over the passing strangers. It was a gloomy day. Was it because of the strange colour of the sky or not, he couldn't figure. Was there again her pair of soft hands to touch, that sea of blue eyes to immerse in and that pair of ruby lips to kiss, it could have been an evening, as lovely as they come, and the picturesque romance of the orange sky and the blue water a most beauteous sight to behold. It must have been that troubling knot in his stomach that twisted the beauty, smearing it with a painful longing. That must be it.

    He stopped in the middle of the bridge, took his hands out of his pockets and rested his palms on the ledge of the arched bridge over the Canal Grande. With his back to the passing crowd, it was easier not to draw attention with his moist eyes and the lump in his throat. The attention nevertheless, was drawn to him, regardless of what he did. He wanted so badly to sink to the cobblestones of the bridge and cry... Cry like a baby of 57 that he was.

    He took off his fedora hat and let the chill autumn wind caress his gray hair. The chillness of the wind blowing against his head was a sweet relief. A bittersweet gaiety that, as bitter as he was, he cherished. Numbed the pain, it did.

    He put his hat on the ledge, climbed up the there, and sat there cross-legged beside his hat... So much for not drawing attention, he brooded. What do I care. Silent as he ever was, he sat there and kept his eyes locked to the river. With every passing boat a flickering flame of hope started to burn in his heart, which vanished shortly thereafter. Why hasn't she come? That same old pang of anxiety struck at his heart.

    He turned his head down, looking down at the passing water beneath him. A weary old man, was what the water reflected of him; with the sparse hair almost as white as snow and the face deprived of any hope of life. When had he become so? He couldn't remember...

    Some feet away, past a group of people taking photographs, a leader explained to a fellow tourist “This is the man they call theLoner of Venezia. It’s unbelievable. Thirty years ago, the ferry with which his wife was coming back from a travel undergoes an accident. He was supposed to greet her here, unaware that she had been drowned. They say he’s been so ever since they told him of the accident... The poor guys hasn't just been able accept it. Every day he thinks that, this is the day that she is supposed to come back home...”
    Entrant 2 - Dance
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    June 30, 1832

    British military engineer, Lieutenant-Colonel John By, of the Royal Engineers, walks along the side of his project, hands clasped behind his back. He is followed closely by his management staff, as he humbly reflects upon the final product. As dusk sets on the new waterway, the colonel is pleased, and he turns to give the nod needed that would grant his approval for declaring completion. So long he labored, mentally, for these closing moments of the project, of which the duty of devising an appropriate plan, was bestowed upon him by high command, but now the moment was upon him. His engineering marvel is complete, and he hides his excitement and relief well, to most...


    Esther,

    The war is long over, by this point. It has been nearly two decades since our troops pulled out of of the United States, after the Treaty of Ghent. Shortly thereafter, our high command deemed it necessary to prepare better defenses, in potential light of future American invasions on Crown sovereignty, here in Upper Canada. This new canal connects Bytown to Kingston. Now, there is a straight waterway from Kingston to Montreal. We will never allow as close a loss of connection, like occurred near Crysler's farm; the event of which nearly separated Kingston from Montreal lifelines. This has indeed been remedied now, My Dear. We are now able to get supplies west, with more ease.

    I know our relationship has suffered, these past few years. I understand that the romance has dwindled ever so much, as a result. But you and our daughters are what truly matter to me, and I have done this for you. I argued for the naming of this canal after you, My Love. However, Lord Ramsay would have none of it, despite our longtime friendship. I understand now, it would be inappropriate, as we are not of the royal class. I do wish you to know that I fervently advocated in favor of it. This is how much you truly mean to me.

    Command has approved a name. I have had ample time to reflect on the decision, and it will be called the 'Rideau Canal'. Rideau, the French word for curtain, and it suits it well. The word pays homage to the twin waterfalls of the Ottawa and Rideau rivers. Suitable, it is the final touch of a fine product of British architectural engineering.


    As much as I wanted you here, the lingering hostilities and tensions still weigh heavy on the frontier. A little while longer, and I shall join you all again, in Halifax. It is only a matter of time.

    For now, we shall make history, My Dearest Love,

    John


    *Historical note: The Rideau Canal was constructed originally with protection of British/Canadian territory, in mind. Now, it serves as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a recreational and commercial waterway, and the longest skating rink in the world, which draws thousands of tourists a year.
    Entrant 3 - William the Marshal
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Serenissima
    In the fading dusk, Captain Alessandro di Rimira nodded to his second-in-command. Ottavio saluted, then turned to bellow at the sailors who were loading the last of the stores. "Hurry up, you useless cuttlefish!" he shouted. "The captain wants that pitch on board now, you sons of Genoese!" The sailors hurried to comply. As he waited, Alessandro's eye fell on the shore, where he noticed a patch of grey among the gaudily-dressed French tourists gawking at the Venetian galley. Focusing on the indistinct image, he could just make out the corno that told him his surmise was correct, and the doge - more importantly, perhaps the doge's daughter - had come to see him off. Try as he might, however, he could not see Caterina, unless - yes - there she was, being handed out of a canal boat to stand next to her father on shore. Alessandro lifted his hand to wave, then hesitated, reflecting that it might make him seem a fool. He shrugged and did it anyway; after all, he thought, if anything makes a man into a fool, it's love. Caterina, seeing his motion, waved back.
    Alessandro grinned with delight; behind him, Ottavio chuckled at his young captain. The first officer of the newly commissioned Bella Caterina wasn't one for romance, but he was a good enough judge of men to know that di Rimira could succeed at anything he set his mind to, be it winning a woman or a battle. With an able captain and a good ship, Ottavio's mind was at ease.
    Alessandro suddenly saw a boat putting out from the shore. His face assuming an expression he hoped was more consistent with a captain's dignity, he waited as the boat pulled alongside his galley and an Arsenal official handed him two letters. "From the Doge," he said, holding out a heavy parchment sheet with the seal of Venice on it, "and," (with a slight grimace) "from his daughter." Alessandro's spirits soared once more as he placed the second letter carefully inside his jerkin. He bowed elaborately to the departing official, to the doge, and to Caterina before issuing one last order to Ottavio. At Ottavio's command, a sailor raced to the mast and hoisted the flag. When the winged lion of Saint Mark was flying proudly on the breeze, the rowers cheered and began pulling at their oars. As the light of the dying sun silhouetted the buildings of Venice, Alessandro walked into his cabin to read his orders - and Caterina's letter.
    Entrant 4 - Dude with the Food
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    “Hey, wanna hit the bar after?”
    “Hey Dave, I thought doctor told you no more than four pints a week?”
    The newcomer cocked his head slightly; both chins lurched with the sudden movement before settling to be disturbed again.
    don’t understand the value of fun. Never have, never will.”
    “Come now, that’s no way to talk in this politically correct world we live in. When’d you lose your horses?”
    “Dentist said I’ve got a root canal. She wants me back next week to mess with it.” His frame visibly wilted under the weight of the words and the thick eyebrows folded in anxiety.
    His friend’s vast wealth of sympathy rose up inside him, shining outwards like a beacon to the needy. “She? What happened to the guy? The one you thought wanted to put your skull in his collection.”
    “Oh, he went back to Stanislakivicistainilovia. Some family thing or something. These immigrants come here taking the jobs of the decent hard-working and flying back to their homes like bloody tourists. It really reflects badly on the government.”
    “Calm down man. You’re starting to rant. Remember last time you ranted? S t o p r a n t i n g.”
    The bigger man suddenly drew up to his full height, cheeks blazing, fists clenched and raised. “That was not his problem. Why the **** did he get involved? There was no need and he had no right for that! If I ever see him again I swear I’m gonna-”
    “STOP! Stop. Calm down. Deep breaths. In, out. In, out. One. Two. Three. Calm down.”
    “Why are we waiting here anyway? Jim can stuff himself.”
    “You know Jim, he’ll be round the corner in traffic or somewhere. Have some patience.”

    They looked over to where the lights had changed and cars started pouring down the road. A lonely lamppost flickered, heralding dusk’s arrival. The two men watched for a few seconds before turning back to each other. The smaller glanced at his watch, turned to the entrance and back at his companion.
    “3, 2, 1 and a half, 1 annnndd… Now he can stuff himself. Come on then, what d’you wanna see?”
    “What’s the one with Will Smith and his kid?”
    “After Earth. Good choice. I concur.”
    Ignoring his friend, Dave continued, “Not that. I feel in the mood for romance. What’s in for that?”
    “Now we have to wait for Jim, he owes me tenner.”
    “What for? You asked what I wanted to see and I said.”
    “Exactly. You’ll understand one day.”
    Entrant 5 -
    Entrant 6 -
    Entrant 7 -


    TotW 193 - Gingy
    peaceful, trouble, candy, wit, brave
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Shankbot de Bodemloze
    Entrant 2 - ☩ Lord Inquisitor Derpy Hooves ☩
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Hakal Fozz, surrounded by seven of his advisors, stared at a map, etched into the stone wall of the Hakal’s War Room. The map depicted the local area around their city of Mossi. All eight figures in the room wore nemes-like headcloths, though where the Hakal wore a dark orange nemes, his advisors wore green or yellow ones. If the color differentiation was not enough to give away the Hakal’s status, certainly one glance at his colorful robe would prove enough. Up and down the Hakal’s robe were intricate designs using a variety of colors, his advisors on the other hand wore white or off white robes. Coincidentally, the Hakal towered in height over his advisors.

    “Have the barbarians given us any trouble recently?” the Hakal asked.

    A grim looking man to the right of the Hakal thought for a moment then said, “Lucky for us, no, Great Hakal. Our deal with the local mountain tribes…”

    “Hassan, I find it laughable you would think that the mountainmen are something to be afraid of.” a brutish man to the left of the Hakal said. His criticism caused a couple other advisors to chuckle. However, the Hakal was annoyed at this petty outburst, but kept a calm face.

    “Have you ever journeyed out of Mossi before Hakl?” Hassan said, raising his voice. After a couple seconds, Hassan continued, “As I thought. You know nothing of the barbarians. It is true, those barbarians lack the wit and the elegance of Mossiites, a fact that has enabled us to take advantage of their simplicity. However!” his voice’s volume went up, “Do not be fooled! I myself have viewed the barbarians in a battle, and I warn you, the guardians of Mossi may be brave, but their skills as warriors are inferior in comparison to the barbarians of the mountains. It would be simple for them to raid our lands or worse, attack Mossi. It would be best to have peaceful relations with the barbarians, at least then we can ensure our survival.”

    Hakl glared in defeat at Hassan. Finally, after a few seconds, Hassan continued talking, “As I was saying, the Mossi’s status quo with the local mountain tribes remains. Our slave trade deal remains intact.”

    Almost immediately, the Hakal responded sounding worried, “About that Hassan. Might the slave trade deal threaten the status quo? It is mountain men that we are using as slaves.”

    “Not in the least, Great Hakal. As long as they never tire of the goods that we can trade them, we are fine. In fact, yesterday I was told by a merchant that he was able to trade his candy apricots for mountain men that were recently captured in battle.”

    The Hakal smirked; he was glad that the status quo would remain. “Excellent. Now everyone except Kaniz leave, I wish to speak to him about the city’s defenses alone.” Yes, even though he knew the status quo was intact, the Hakal was concerned.
    Entrant 3 - Ussaid_modder
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Brave Henry walked briskly on the patch of nature's green carpet. Behind the high tops of hills, lied a cozy and peaceful village. Looking at the green eye candy, Henry remembered he had worked to do; after all, his sick mother wasn't going to feed herself. He quickly crouched down and started picking berries, he had to be careful to not hurt himself with a rose's spike. A rose is a beautiful thing, but not necessary a safe thing too; every rose is proceeded by a sharp spike. Unfortunately, such was the case of his life too. Although it was bright and enjoyable from a distance, when you close up you can see the imperfections. He wondered if life would be different if father wouldn't hadn't passed away. Would Henry still be picking up litter from streets, or could have he enjoyed a carefree teenage life? Sighing, he accepted the fact that he didn't even knew what "carefree" mean. He wondered if he could ask his mother what teenage life is like, then quickly shook his head. He have already given his mother a lot of trouble; what would have happened to him if she would just have tossed him down a well, instead of growing him up with love and luxury while she herself slept on a mattress of dirty straws? Anyway, his mother have always dreamed of seeing him grow up to become a strong and witty man, and asking her such silly question would probably break her faith on his wits. Then he thought that he really wanted to make his mother see him grow up, he would have to speed up. His mother had been very sick for the past few weeks, and he couldn't stand her saying "Henry, my dear, I am leaving, take care", he felt awkward, he didn't understand. He suddenly thought that what would happen to him if she passed on, in her loving guidance he hadn't understood the world so much. The rich brats bullied him, calling him offending names, and he couldn't do anything. He wasn't so sharp, and the shopkeepers always tricked him. He hadn't eaten anything for the last one day, but he didn't cared. He wanted to prove himself, he wanted to prove he is a man, not a boy, but he just can't. By that time he realized that he was covered in tears, and the rose's spike was deep in his skin, but he knew that his life was a much sharper blade then that spike.
    Entrant 4 - Lyra
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    A funny mustache wiggled; it's mouth fervently crunched on the synthetically colored, artificially sweetened, pod-fruits.

    The mustache wiggled, it could not help it -such a tattle-tale.

    The funny mustache-sporting muncher eyed still munching at the faint yet glaring LEDs. Bleeding a crimson light, they ordered themselves into a relatively cohesive form. But they had been like so for quite while -their previous formations in equal displeasure to the candy eater.

    He continued to eye them, commandingly. Yearning with every twine of his being for them to relocate themselves. No munching. No hair-undulating. The presently busy waiting room was mere silence to the man. Background noise to the intense moment he was in.

    In an instant allocation of dots, the present shattered. And what was meant to come, came; in doing so it forced an automated audial summoning:

    "No. B345, please direct to counter 23."

    The unnatural, perceived female, voice expanded through the room. The man stood up abruptly with a shrill squeak of his shoes. He began stuffing the bag of sugarates into his pocket. It crackled in defiance at being stuffed into such a tight enclosure.

    The man fumbled, a sudden start of continual squeaking signaled his advance. The sweets bag half-hung bravely out of his pocket, a symbol of a man who held the importance of a cue number over the safety of his tangy, 'Summer-Shamanza' Treats Co. Berries(tm).

    Others did not see the jellies. They didn't even see a fat, middle-aged man with a sugar problem and a bad sense of style. They saw another number in the cue. One who had gotten there earlier than they. His being boiled down to timing.

    But the man in question had other things on his mind. He reached the counter.

    "Hello sir. In what way could we help you?" said now a woman from the other side, her disinterest stabbed.

    "I would like to make a withdrawal." he said assuredly as he produced a crumpled paper. He handed it hastily across. The woman stared at the paper, she looked hesitant, a slight glint in her tired eyes, "All of it?"

    The man smiled and nodded.

    "Okay then." she stamped and signed the slip and started compiling the said monetary sum.

    "Do you know the story of the gingerbread man?" he asked suddenly.

    The woman, caught off guard, simply stared. But the man continued, "He had wit, though they caught him good. They did; no trouble. Ate him piece by piece." he chuckled.

    "Huh..." this was in no way part of the woman's job description. She handed the wads of cash to man. Putting it back in his aged belt-bag, the man finally said, "They'll never eat the last piece. Have a peaceful day." he turned around and walked determinedly out of the establishment.

    "You too?" the woman whispered, confused. She buzzed the next one in.

    "No. B346, please direct to counter 23."

    It was just another cue number.


    TotW 194 - The Siege
    brutal, famine, bloody, keep, catapult
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Dude with the Food
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Desolation.
    Disintegration
    Devastation.

    Swift had curse ravaged the lands, relentless in its fury. Over deserts and grasslands it had spread, leaving only death and destruction in its wake. None had expected the brutal fires it raged with, or the terrible quickness it had catapulted itself with.

    Yet worst of all; the fear.

    As though God himself had looked upon Earth and risen the oceans once more, powerful dread captured the heart of each and every. The was no slow pain of famine or starvation. Neither any repulsive burn of disease or pestilence. The fear came from the distant growl of thunder, and then the lightning death that followed. Few survived such and those that did lived in such crushing dread, little will to continue remained.

    It had risen far out of reckoning, away from the common worlds far to the east. It had grown; a minor nuisance of which rumours travelled little. Then it had grown, falling first upon deaf ears of petty lords, busy with games of welfare and state and personal glory. And had it been stopped, danger would have been averted.
    But it wasn’t. And it kept growing.
    Faster and faster until all the steppes quivered under hoof beat of thousands upon thousands of wicked horse and rider. Hordes of them, in full momentum, unstoppable, breaking as huge waves upon stone castle cliffs. Yet even the highest of cliffs may be brought to kneel under the full terrors and ferocity of the depths of the oceans. Great kings and emperors begged were thrown down to allow for the ever-spreading shadows of chaos.

    And they all kneel before the one. The one before which seas still, mountains shrink and Gods quake. Malicious powers hide behind his conceited squints, twisted and wrecked beyond all chance of redemption. He rules with iron fist, great king under bloody skies. None look down or equally at him, he is above all. He is Temujin.
    Entrant 2 - Ussaid_modder
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Duke Toirrdelbach paced around the room, muttering curses to anyone unfortunate enough to came to his mind.

    "Please, calm down my lord." requested Baron Aed, a short man in his late 30's. "Calm down?" bellowed the duke. "How could I when those 20,000 bloody savages outside this castle who want to siege it away from me! First the famine, and now this!"

    "Sit down, father" intervened Cecil, the duke's young son. Toirrdelbach, took some deep breathes, and sat down on the wooden chair.

    The planning continued. Between the three man was a round wooden table, covered with ink, quills and parchment, and an occasional loaf of bread or a goblet of wine. The room of part of guard tower, build on the walls of a castle. From the window, they could clearly see thousands of tents on the plains below the hill on which the castle was built.

    They have been sitting there from dusk, planning a strategy. Three very different men; Toirrdelbach, a arrogant and hotheaded old duke, Aed a short, sharp adult and Cecil, a young and handsome knight.

    "Maybe we harsh them with your knights, this would keep the infantry's attention away." Aed suggested, referring to Cecil.

    "I would think other-wise." Cecil started. "My knights are too precious to be doing such stunts; they were trained to kill enemies, unlike....", Cecil sighed and glanced at Aed. The Baron had curved his lips and was now staring at him, eyes spitting hate.

    "Enough for one night! Lets go to bed" ordered the duke. The others were quick to obey, and followed the duke to the door.

    "Wait, when will the king arrive?" asked Cecil the duke's back.

    "Probably, never" came Toirdelbach's voice.

    When the duke opened the door to the walls, a sudden flaming arrow hit the wall in front. Loosing balance from the sudden terror, he tripped and fell off the walls.

    Cecil breathed "No" in disbelief and come out to greet the sight; ballistics and catapults below, ready to shot a brutal hit..

    "Run to the keep! Wake the guards! We are facing a full-scale assault!" Cecil shouted to Aed, and ran to the stables. The baron obeyed.

    Cecil mounted his saddle, and rode around, shouting orders.

    After only minutes, The entire castle force have been rallied, descending to the plain.

    Cecil lead the charge of the knights, and they quickly crushed the enemy still sleeping in the camps.

    The castle's infantry was heavily outnumbered by the enemies force. Only a right-timed charge could win this battle.

    Disheartened, the garrison have lost all hope victory, but it would be changed.

    A heavy voice roared through the grounds, and a bloody figure fell from his horse. A clearly unarmed old man climbed the horse in turn, and rising a bloody sword, he shouted, "God is with us!" then charged unarmed in the horde of enemies, showing great bravery. The soldiers followed, and soon Cecil joined with his knights.
    Scared by the sudden change of events, the enemies fled like wiped pigs, begging for mercy.

    None found Mercy.
    Entrant 3 - Aquila Praefortis
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    CATAPUUUULT!” Sergeant Jonathon shouted as he ducked below a crenellation just as a boulder chipped the top of the limestone wall, scattering pebbles of debris in our direction. I let one of my last four arrows fly, singing from my longbow to the ground twenty feet below.

    My ears rang from the crash in my rough helmet, which was quite the mass produced conical piece of semi-refined iron. The absolute din of the siege was horrifying. The cries of the dying, the siege engines clacking and whooshing, the arrows flying, men’s shouts as they charged up to the wall with ladders or straight courage, all jumbled together into a continuous roar. A famine arose among us, the defenders, have us permanently weakened, peasants and knights alike. Our rations came to down to the stuff that is half-rotten, partly rat-eaten, and only-found-at-the-bottom-of-the-barrel. We have third-rations of semi-liquid, unidentified mush the cooks proclaim to be bread, cheese, and apples.

    “Get the ladders!” Sir Reynald shouted hoarsely at me, pointing with his bloody sword. Everyone’s communication was rendered to a rough gasps, yells, and weary gestures. Nevertheless, I grabbed an arrow (just two left in my quiver. No!), nocked, and turned. A tall, heavyset axman was at the wall. They must have chosen him first up because he looked to be most likely to buy the guys below him enough time for them to climb up. Straining my right arm and shoulder, my bow sang. At such short-range (a mere thirty feet), my arrow slammed into his chest, easily piercing his leather bandoleer. Before I see could the direct results, I grabbed my mace and charged at what must be at least a steady jog to other attacker on the wall, a short man in chain mail with a sword.

    My down-stroke bit the edge of the unnamed enemy’s shield, stuck until I heaved the mace off the shield while he heaved the other direction. His right hand, however, was not idle. It was, in fact, sweeping toward my side, and I had to slam my mace down at his sword to prevent its master’s desire. I successfully hooked the sword down, and my mace then gave a brutal back-hand stroke at his chest, and his shield was too low to intercept it. The swordsman face was distorted in panic for a moment before slumping into the eerie calm I became so familiar with. It still shook me every time I saw it. I barely saw him fall as I used my mace to shove the ladder down.

    “Retreat! Fall back to the keep! Get your men out of there!”

    When I gazed at the other two visible walls, they were overrun. Jonathon, Sir Reynald and I charged to the stairwell, Jonathon’s spear skewering, Sir Reynald’s sword cleaving, and my mace bludgeoning, we dodged arrows all the way. Distant allies have not come, we are alone, we are weary, we have to fight to and in the keep, which we may not hold.
    Entrant 4 - ImperialAquila
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Brother-Sergeant Cassius hacked the enemy's arm off with his chainsword. The sound of whirring ceramite teeth tearing through power armour drowned off the noise of the battlefield around him. Raising his bolt pistol, he finished the traitor Space Marine with a bolt round to the head. Blood splattered on his once-pristine yellow battle plate. He looked around at the brutal and bloody carnage and felt hatred for the Emperor-forsaken bastards. They were once Space marines like him. Yes, he thought, but they were Space Marines no more for they have long since lost the right to be called as such when they spat at their oaths to the Emperor and worshipped Chaos. His thoughts were disturbed by distant explosions from the Iron Warriors' mighty siege weapons. These daemon-infested machines were hell-bent on bringing down the Governor’s Palace but he is confident that the defenses that they have built could withstand anything they could throw at them. Their artillery hit like the catapults of the long-forgotten empires of Terra, ineffective and inaccurate and the damages they could inflict on the massive ramparts and walls surrounding the palace were negligible. How long has it been since the servants of Chaos first arrived here? He has lost count of the days. Focus he thought, the battle isn't over yet. "For Dorn and the Emperor brothers! Charge!" he bellowed. The members of his squad surged forwards and engaged the enemy in melee. The Chaos Space Marines finally fell back against the roaring tide of their counter-attack.

    "Brother" came the vox-crackled reply of Captain Darnath Lysander. "Report status of the western perimeter. Is the keep still secure?"

    "Brother-Captain, we have broken the Iron Warriors' assault here and they are now pulling back.” Cassius replied, eyeing the retreating enemy.

    "Good. We need your squad to support elements of the Imperial Guard defending Sector 12. The Iron Warriors will begin another assault and this time I have no doubt that they will break through if we don't reinforce them" Lysander said over the vox.

    "Understood Captain," Cassius hesitated for a moment then added "but we should not leave this location undefended or we will risk losing it."

    "Affirmative. Leave a security detail in place. I shall re rout regiments of the Imperial Guard and Pollux's squad to reinforce them."

    "Yes Brother-Captain." Cassius proceeded to divide his squad. He left a five-man team to remain in place and to secure the location until the guard regiments arrive. Cassius looked around saw the destruction wrought by the enemy. The surface of the planet was already in ruins and the civilian populace was dying in the thousands. The figures were dismaying. Not even a famine or any calamity of such magnitude could boast such a tally of kills. In the name of the God-Emperor, we will defeat these Chaos fanatics and their daemonic allies. We will not fail here. We will defend this planet to the last for we are His Space Marines and we shall know no fear.

  7. #47

    Default Re: TotW Story Index

    TotW 195 - Cold Blood
    fog, train, lip, hour, legend
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - Dance
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Northern shores of Northumbria, 800 CE

    The fog was thick and hindered our vision, as our ships floated towards the shore. We were now to close to float further, our ships halted. We disembarked slow and soundlessly into the water below. We dragged our snekkja* far enough onto the sands to load it quick, in the event we alarm the enemy. This land was ripe for the taking, and the successes of prior years have only emboldened our daring and bravado.

    We detached our shields from the boat, inspected our weapons, and ensured our equipment was fastened tightly to ourselves. Rolf turned, and raised his spear, giving the go ahead to march. We could not make the mistake of being presumptuous of another easy raid, like at Lindisfarne. This was a new year, and we were sure their highlords would be ready for our return. Rolf took first lead, followed closely behind by his second-in-command, Tryg. Monstrous Munn - shield straps fastened around his arm - beat his chest, fist clenched, as was his signature self-confirmation of being ready for battle - building up his own momentum. We were forging our own legend. The bards will sing songs of this day, and new sagas will form. The hour was now. We were hardened and determined to succeed in this undertaking.

    With our share that the Jarl* promised us as payment, I would be able to finally afford that land west of the Fjorn Hills. I've always wanted to farm my own land. To tend my own crops, butcher my own meat, and ride horses with my sons on the hillsides of my own land, is a blissful thought. I can train my sons in the courtyard of our own farmstead, without having to grovel to each passing highborn, mocked for being lesser.

    With a wife and four sons back home, I had no choice but to return with my share of the plunder promised to me. This would be more then enough to live comfortably for awhile, with some added luxury to our lives. I followed the others as they led the way up the beach, still rife with thick fog - or as we saw it - a blessing bestowed upon us by Ægir. And we would make good use of it.

    Gripping my fist around my spear, I could feel the urge creeping inside me to just charge forward. Biting my lip, I stayed my urge, as we had element of surprise on our side. We assume full surprise, as dawn had just broke. We could not even see the settlement before us, but we knew it was there. Rolf picked up the pace, and we followed in sync. This... Is what legends are made of.

    *A Snekkja is a 20-bench longship, commonly used during the Viking Age (800-1050 CE).
    *A Jarl is a Scandinavian rank of nobility. Raids were often funded by these lords, and the division of plunder was subject to their will.
    Entrant 2 - Ussaid_modder
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    “JOOOOHN!” bellowed Clark in the distance. “John! Can you hear me? Where in the hell are you?” there was no response. Clark cursed and reoccupied his old position. It had been much time, and there was no sign of John. After all, he has been sitting in front of this abandoned ice-skating club for an hour, and he was hungry.

    He raised his head and saw nothing, nothing except snow and fog. This area has been abandoned for 50 years, because people thought it was haunted. But he didn’t believe.

    He didn’t believe.

    He licked his dry lips, thinking. A sudden wave of terror hit him; what if John has forsaken him? What if he had found a way, and didn’t bother to return?

    No, he told himself, he wouldn’t let this happen. He would get out of this frozen hell, no matter what. He stood up and picked up his bag-pack, glancing at the building’s window.

    He saw John’s face.

    He turned back frantically, but it was empty. He panicked, and he ran wildly away from there, without looking at which direction he was going. He had soon sprinted so far that he could only see fog in every direction. Where was John? What would happen now? These questions created a mixture of panic and fear he has never experienced before; was it the end?

    Coming back to his senses, he laughed these things off. That haunted legend was a legend, and legends are false. He would only have to walk a few paces, and he would be at the village, where John would crack up at his own prank.

    Feeling relaxed, he started walking. Nothing greeted him, except fog and snow, and he grew suspicious again. Suddenly, he heard someone walk past, quickly turning; he saw a white figure running away from him.

    He followed.

    “Please, who you are?” he cried desperately, but to no result. The figure slowly disappeared in the fog, and Clark fell to the ground exhausted. When he rose, a creepy sight meets him; a snow buried train was standing in front of him. That is impossible, he thought, there are no train rails for 300miles! Curiously approaching the structure, he jumped when a door banged open.

    There was nobody inside, so he deiced to take a look.

    The view inside was a reflection of hell. He fell back with so much force that he was laying flat on his back. Out of blue, a pale skinned girl with dark hair appeared in the front.

    Clark cried frantically, crawling away from the being, begging for mercy.

    The girl raised her head, and revealed a face that meant death itself.

    3 months later……….


    Officer Smith and co were investigating a body. The skin on the skull, it seemed had been burned with acid, since the skull was flesh-free. The body had no signs of injuries, just a flesh-less skull.
    There was tag on the front of the coat, reading……..
    Clark Anderson
    Entrant 3 - ImperialAquila
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    It started on a cold December night when a
    train
    was bogged down by a snowstorm, the rail tracks underneath it buried about 3 feet deep. There was no power and the rail cars were pitch black. Outside, the
    fog
    was so dense it was near impossible to see anything and inside, with no communication, the passengers had to sit tight, wait for rescue and endure the cold and starvation. Minutes passed into
    hour
    s and it was now a quarter past 11. Most the passengers were asleep and he entered the
    train
    unnoticed, coming in from the last rail car's back entrance. He stalked the corridors licking his
    lip
    s in relish at the thought of the coming slaughter and in his hands, his so ever pale white hands, was a snow shovel with a razor sharp edge. His first victim was the driver and using the sharp edge of his shovel as an ax, decapitated him. The conductor was the next one to go for he was unfortunate enough to enter the driver's cab, stabbing him in the eye with a pen taken from the driver's pocket. He paused for a moment and listened. It seems the passengers were not aware of his presence yet so he must work quickly. The poor conductor was still flailing and tried desperately to call for help but with the killer's hands on his mouth, it was of no use. Deciding to put the man out of his misery, he brought his shovel up and began to hit the man over and over until his skull gave in and collapsed. Blood gushed, splattering itself all over his face and he could smell and taste the coppery tang of blood on his
    lip
    s. He loved the taste of blood and frequently sought it out. That's what he was here for. The blood, carnage, and the slaughter. He went out of the cab as silently as possible and made his way to where the passengers were. His favorite victims were the children for he always enjoyed giving them a slow and painful death. The thought of it made him salivate and he went berserk now, neither caring nor hesitating in his actions. He took one of them and with his hands, began to choke the life out of her. The child was dead but it didn't satiate his sadistic lust and he began to take a trophy, her fingers, which he cut off one by one and placed inside his pocket. He stalked the aisle in between the seats to and fro, surreptitiously killing and the silent efficiency of his kills rivaled those of a master assassin. His victims didn't see him coming. His last victim was a woman in her mid-thirties who woke up to the sounds of his approaching footsteps. Her bloodcurdling scream broke the eerie silence of the night and marked the beginning of a
    legend
    . The cold blooded murders of these poor passengers would soon be known as Sudbury's Via Rail Massacre.


    TotW 196 - Darlin'
    fine, heart, life, soul, love
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - ImperialAquila
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I would always remember those bright blue eyes and luscious lips.

    Her name was Jennifer and I've loved her from the moment I first laid eyes on her. It was classic love at first sight. She was perfect in every way. She was the most beautiful girl on our campus, slightly taller than me and really outgoing. Every guy had a huge crush on her and have tried to win her heart over but in the end, I triumphed where others have failed. Our first date was literally a "walk in the park" and it involved me stuttering, shaking quite a bit, and tripping over a lot of times because of nervousness. When I told her I wasn't always this "geeky", she just smiled and said it was okay and that she didn't mind it the least bit. We talked a lot and she told me it was her dream to help those in need and to be a doctor. We became an official couple right after our first date, which ended with a kiss and me skipping up and down the street. When I got home I couldn't stop myself from smiling and my parents thought I'd gone crazy. They asked me a whole lot of things like where I was, who I was with but all they could get out of me was my taunting smile and after wishing them good night, I went upstairs to my bedroom and fell asleep with that smile still plastered on my face. Days turned to weeks and weeks turned into months. Every day I would pick up Jennifer on my Chevy. As she stepped inside my car, I always greeted her with a cheesy "Good morning beautiful". Now I know what you're all thinking. My line has got to be the worst you've ever heard right? Well, I've got to tell you guys that I couldn't think straight whenever I see her and I always get tongue-tied. I would always have Queen playing on my car stereo but she'd always pop out the tape and put in one of hers. I would grimace and say the song was gay but she would stick out her tongue at me or pinch me.

    Our relationship stayed strong and kept going steady even after our graduation day. I thought I finally found the person I would spend the rest of my life with, someone I could bare my whole heart and soul to. I went to a jewelry store and even bought a diamond ring. I was going to propose but alas, it was not to be. She broke up with me a few days later before I could even pop the question. She didn't give me a reason for it. Can you imagine the hurt I felt? I was crushed but I just kept a straight face and said I was fine. I slowly turned and walked away from her. And as I turned, I felt tears running down my face.
    Entrant 2 - Aquila Praefortis
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    You are my love, you are my dear
    With you around, you repel my fear.
    With you doeth my heart here lay
    You shift my mood from its normal gray.

    In my eyes you can do no wrong
    Your words bring forth a precious song
    Your voice is music to my ears
    Your beauty doesn’t diminish by the years.

    With you my soul is complete
    How you captivate me is a feat
    Unlike any the world has yet known
    Without you I’d truly be alone.

    You are worth more to me than precious gems
    Worth more than any other of my friends
    I would take you over the entire world’s gold.
    Your value to me is forever untold.

    My soul yearns for a soul-mate
    You are what makes my heart pump at this date.
    My love for you shall not diminish
    But my desire for your hand I cannot completely finish.

    No matter how much my desire
    But all I can do is but distantly admire
    For I will never be good enough
    For you, I am not made of the right stuff.

    My life hasn’t been kind for me, that has never been new
    Our marriage would only bring hardship unto you.
    When you are with me, our lives would not be “fine
    I cannot bear have you become like me for the tiniest amount of time.

    This poem will only be known to me
    Tragically not for your eyes to see
    Tears come to my eyes in a rush

    Of what is happening to my secret poem now. . . . *FLUSH*
    Entrant 3 - Philip Regent of Hospitallers
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Had another dream about her last night...

    I will never forget her ocean-blue eyes, what stared at me those three years, when we were in same class. I have always felt that something or someone is missing from my life. Though I have been gifted almost at everything - at lot will to study everything, to keep myself physically fit and to be also a great friend, but my soul never has accepted the situation, where I should commit myself into a relationship...but I so badly to do that...since I have loved her from the very first sight. She is calm, quiet, intelligent, beautiful, confident. What else you could ask from a girl, who will make a great woman in later life stage?? I simply can´t ask more from her...she just doesn´t know it yet that I like her so much...and she probably won´t as well...because I am not able to confess my love towards her. I am afraid of her decline, her saying "NO", her later keep away from me...I-I-I just can´t see myself failing, after having such a fine friendship with her. Yes, we do have arguments, but they are friendly ones, ending with funny conclusion, but I still can´t withstand the fact that she might not answer likewise, when I should confess my love towards her. What if one day we are going to have argument, which can break my heart completely and demoralize me to achieve my future goals? What if my life is destroyed, because she says "NO" to me? What if I don´t live in this world anymore, when I find out that she doesn´t love me? All these questions, all these answers...they are just too much for me to handle, I really need to know, what she thinks of me as a person...as a MAN...as her future husband...I just can´t bare to look her eyes again, her sight or her opinion about...God, please give the strength to handle all this...because my soul has completely broken...I need some time to rest from all this...
    Entrant 4 - R-teen
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I’m running in a golden meadow. It’s a harsh sun; the coldness of it burns the soul right out of you. I’m dripping with sweat, helpless and lost. My face... it hurts. I don’t know why. It’s a lonely meadow, surrounded by a low wooden fence, with the entrance closed so as not to be disturbed by anyone. I’m running towards her and my face is in pain. I don’t know why...

    Smiles, she does. The ache of my face it fades. She frowns. I am wrecked, torn, ripped apart. The tears trickle, shine, slide down the sides of her face. I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. My collarbones crush, but I die hard. In agony I struggle. I’m dying to get pass these few steps to get to her; but alas, to no avail. Instead of getting closer, the only thing that changes is that the frame of the window of my eyes get smaller and smaller. The harder I try to focus, the dimmer she gets. From a glimpse of her evanescence figure I come to understand, that I may not really know her. Do I really know you?!

    I’m aching. Head to feet. Heart to brain. Of this distance doing us part. My face, it burns. I don’t remember how, or why, but... it hurts. My feet are killing me; I know why: from all the running. I call you out: Darlin’! Love! I’m gasping like hell, but still I struggle. Although I can hardly take it anymore, that come-hither look on your face just doesn’t allow me to give up yet. I drink up what’s left in my goblet of will; when my feet underneath threaten to abandon me, I pick them up by force and stamp them on the ground once more. I am running the life out of myself, to get pass these few steps... It just doesn’t happen...

    My face is aching. I don’t know why. I struggle. Struggle to lock these black marbles inside this glair of my eyes on yours. The coldness of it... of that hideous look... it comes crashing down on my face. I saw that once-fine eyes deprived of soul. I saw what I had better not seen...

    My face aches. Sourly. I know why. What I don’t know, is that why I had to bear all that pain to finally look at you. I don’t know why this bucket of freezing cold water had to be emptied on my head so many times over before I finally felt the cold wetness of it freeze the last remnants of burning hope within me.

    I’m walking in a golden meadow. My face is in pain. I wonder why there’s this wooden fence around the field, but the door is standing wide open. I see someone in distance. I run to her. It’s a warm sun...


    TotW 197 - The Spartan Way
    fierce, freedom, skilled, deadly, Sparta
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - ImperialAquila
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    What will men say of us when we are long gone and nothing is left of us except dust? When men pass this place, will they remember our deeds? Of our courage and honour? Of how we tried to stop tyranny for the freedom of all?

    Perhaps. Nothing is always certain.

    We fought them hard and gave them something they will never forget. Of that I'm sure, for such was to be expected from Spartans. Skilled soldiers deadly with the spear, fierce in battle, and honour-bound never to retreat nor surrender. The pride of Sparta.

    Our enemy was legion. Their armies so vast that their battle lines and columns go on as far as the eye could see, finally disappearing yonder over the horizon. They had numbers, yes, but of professional soldiers, they had none. Their soldiers were spirited fighters, but they lacked the discipline of our men and that's what sets us apart from them. They were slaves whilst we were free men. They were forced to fight in a cause not of their own, whereas we fight of our own accord. We fought them to a standstill, and as I recall the joke of ours, fought in the shade.

    Nevertheless, they overwhelmed our defenses and have surrounded us. Our king fell, arrows hitting him from every side and stabbed by Persian blades. Twice they grabbed his body, desecrating it in the process, twice we got it back from them, making sure to handle it with care. It was bloody. Most of our spears were now broken and we used our swords to hack Persians apart. Our shields were of no use in such close quarter combat now and we discarded them. The screams of many Persians were music to my ears. Oh, what sweet music they were and I laughed at the sheer joy I felt. The massacre went on for another hour or so then they sounded the retreat. We cheered at their retreating backs only to find out that the worst was still to come. We heard a second trumpet and the whistling sound of incoming arrows and javelins. Without our shields, we could do nothing except watch as each of us were struck down mercilessly.

    I was hit at the shoulder and I fell to ground, though the pain was beyond me, I still felt it sting. I crawled away from the battlefield, watching my brothers-in-arms dying. I had to move away, I had to do this. Perhaps they shall understand one day why I left the battle and will not brand me a coward. I crawled through the ground making my way towards a large stone. Upon reaching it, I took up my knife and carved on it. I felt my vision blurring after that, I felt my entire soul leaving my body but I gladly accepted it for my deed was done and I die happy knowing it was all for nothing.

    Carved upon the stone was their epitaph:

    "Σπάρτα, Μήποτε ὕπεικε"

    "Sparta, never give up"
    Entrant 2 - Philip Regent of Hospitallers
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    This the story of the Greek city-state, which lies at the very south of Peloponnesos, which refuses to give up their sole freedom to join the other Greeks, because it is their right to do so...and so they do as well. This the story of Sparta.

    Those Spartans from the Greek hellenic history, as I like call them, were the heroes of Greece. They had major roles in great wars such as Greco-Persian and Peloponnesian...although last one was against own fellow Greeks - the Athenians, but they emerged victorious from there. Still, in battles against Persia, those men gave their lives, most famous by far is Thermopylae, where only small band of Spartan forces under the command of their king Leonidas, showed extraordinary combat abilities against those "infidels", but in the end, they couldn´t get against the horde of Persia...which was avenged year later at Plataea. You want to know why those supermen of Sparta are feared among their enemies?

    Yes, their training is hard and cruel beyond reason. All this starts when small baby boy is born. All weak and sickly infants are "thrown away" and perfectly healthy ones will stay. Those boys over there, they already start at age of 7 to fulfill their manhood. Only purpose for all this is - be perfect or nothing at all. Those men are deadly beyond reason. Those men are skilled beyond any other else. Those men are fierce beyond their own anger. That can´t explained in words, are they in poems or songs or epic stories. The life of Sparta can be only explained in Spartan way and nothing else can do that. Because in Sparta, everyone is warrior.
    Entrant 3 - Aquila Praefortis
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The Spartans.

    The Spartans are weak.

    All the people of Greece fear them, for no purpose. Has Sparta successfully weathered a defeat? No. Defeat them once it is so catastrophic and they cannot recover from want of men to re-make their army. It’s their system of government that brings their ruin. If it weren’t for their militant mindset Sparta wouldn’t have any freedom, but would be my subjects. That is how they still exist. Dowries and marriages of strange nature and reason are rampant, causing a drastic decline of citizens compared to what the land should produce, bringing their ruin as they obliviously train to be fierce soldiers. What use is whipping your seven-year-old to improve toughness or having him strangle a helot to be a man at age twenty (failure resulting in punishment of getting caught, not attempted murder.)? There are more helots, whom are perpetually on the verge of revolt, than Spartans. For each Spartan are seven helots he must watch over. But that is the Spartan way.

    Having two kings is a start for progress. But from only two families? No, that shouldn’t be. What makes an Agaid or a Eurypontid better than the man Sparta needs? Carthage has the most skilled man for the job as their leader, but Sparta gropes for a self-proclaimed higher line, blind to the fact they elect a man unfit for a state that needs revision. But instead they elect an elder of the Gerousia by how loud an assembly cheers for him! How does such a childish act help any? Such a method is deadly for them to use. They have dictators still, called Ephors. Though serving a year at a time, it is dictatorship Ephors possessive. Dictators are the remnants of a bygone age Sparta clings to. But that is the Spartan way.

    That is why I am a Boeotian, and I will make Sparta blink. I am a Boeotian who will march against Sparta.
    Entrant 4 - William the Marshal
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Conor dropped his rifle as the regulars retreated from the canal crossing yet again. I should be used to this, he thought, fighting to control the bile that rose in his throat. After the third British attempt to force a crossing, the ground was littered with dead and wounded, cut down in a hail of deadly fire. And sure, they're only English. It isn't right, feeling sorry for such as they. But he couldn't help turning and (once again) retching. The sound attracted the attention of Sean, Conor's best friend, who looked at Conor, his eyes silently asking: Are you all right? Conor scowled back, trying to seem fierce, like he thought a proper republican would, like perhaps James Connolly would. Sean shrugged and went back to scanning the canal. But, no matter how much Conor scowled, the nausea did not leave him. Why do I feel like this? What's wrong with me? thought Conor angrily. What would James Connolly have to say about this? But, for some reason, not even remembered fragments of the skilled speaker's fiery exhortations helped. Suddenly, an enormous hand landed on his shoulder. He jumped, alarmed, but then relaxed as Jack Murphy's booming voice sounded in his ear. "Good shooting, lad! That's the way to strike a blow for freedom! If they want our arms they'll have to come and take 'em, eh?" Molon labe, thought Conor, suppressing a hysterical laugh. Although Sparta's a bit far from here! The absurd urge to laugh gripped him again, even more choking than the previous feeling of sickness, but he forced himself to remain quiet, knowing that he might not be able to stop laughing once he began. Then he looked back out at the bodies scattered along the bridge and the canal side, and almost retched again. His head spinning, Conor stood and lurched a few steps away from the barricade. "Where are ye goin', lad?" demanded Jack Murphy. "Them English'll be back any minute now an' we'll need as many men as can fire a gun." Conor blinked stupidly and stuttered, "I-I'm going to the Post Office. I'm t-to report on the situation here." Jack's face relaxed into its usual friendly grin. "Ah, to be sure, lad! And it might be you'll be seein' the great James Connolly his own self, for 'tis the Post Office he's at. And if you do, you tell him that no bloody Sasanach'll cross this canal while Jack Murphy and his lads hold it! We'll die here, or kill'em all, but sure and certain they won't have an easy time of it!" And suddenly, Jack's broad grin didn't seem so friendly... no, simply... hungry. Conor mumbled something back before reeling away, his head beginning to ache. Is that all there is? Killing, and martyrdom, and bloody rebellion? Is there no other way? But no answer occurred to Conor, and the only sound now was a new fusillade of shots from the canal.


    TotW 198 - Yes, M'Lord?
    simple, servitude, working, grain, tend
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    Winner - Aquila Praefortis
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    In recent years, I tend to think about what started my . . . determination . . . for success. I remember it with vivid clarity.

    “Yes, milord.” I squeaked to the sergeant as he grabbed me and ordered me to not ‘try anything funny’. I used that reply with everyone at the time, and I was long sick of it. That’s just part of the price to pay for being a hostage, as well as complete servitude to absolutely whoever wanted it. He was a big man, but then, everyone was big in my eyes. The sergeant must have seemed even larger today when he dragged me right to the commander’s tent. The commander was King Stephen, grandson of William the Conqueror. As soon as I reached King Stephen, I was dragged again as his Majesty neared the walls of my father’s castle. The king himself addressed my father.

    “Earl John,” he began in a commanding shout. “This is your son. Surrender your castle into my custody or I shall hang the boy!”

    After the briefest pause my father’s voice rang out, “Go ahead! I still have the hammer and the anvil with which to forge more and still better sons!” Great, I’m disowned before I could hold a sword.

    “Here’s your boy, then!” King Stephen himself grabbed my arm and led me to his war engines, aimed at the castle. He lifted me as if I were nothing I placed me right on the sack of a trebuchet, ready to fire me over the walls. That does things to a little boy. What was my age? Five? Six? Something near there. I knew I was done with being a bargaining chip, having to give titles of respect to the lowliest peasant who saw me. Things like that go against the grain of how things out to be done between peasants and noblemen. I may not be my father’s first son, but I will prove myself, simple as that. If I lived through this.

    King Stephen kept me there for a while, but I could see he had no interest in launching a little boy over the walls of Newbury Castle, landing flat as a biscuit. Eventually relented from being a child-laucher, which was the beginning of my determination for success.

    Another close encounter with death was when I was ambushed as a young knight by Guy de Lusignan. I lost my uncle and liege lord, Patrick of Salisbury, in that battle, but I myself was wounded in the thigh before I could avenge him, and was forced to yield. My wound would become infected if I no one would dress it, but Guy was not interested in me. I was working on how to tend my own wound. Fortunately someone pitied me and smuggled in lengths of linen cloth from a loaf of bread. I would’ve died if it weren’t for that unknown man.

    But I am Sir William Marshal, and I will be great.
    Entrant 2 - Philip Regent of Hospitallers
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    One day merchant and his companion travelled, merchant was in his thoughts:

    As I travelled with my trade caravan on the road, just having reached out of London, I only saw poor peasants working on their grain, what they should provide to town people and yet, they wouldn´t get almost nothing from it...I felt saddened and shattered. For me, it was so wrong, but for the lords, vassals, kings, townspeople it felt right, that those peasants or "maggots", as some of them might call, should be staying to their "roots" and work hard and work for others...my opinion is that those people don´t know means to be poor peasant - helpless, hard-working or even being the slave of food.

    Though I am simple merchant, and yet, a very successful one, as God has granted such talent, he has also granted the vision to see the sorrow of those peasants, living in the village, who barely live through their day - one after another. They seem to tend to obey everything, everyone and every order given to them. That is the worst of them all, because they will exhaust and eventually die to it...which I can´t imagine, how painful it can be...their servitude has earned my respect though. They don´t start rebellion because of it, despite the lord or king or vassal or townspeople or even merchant like me...*sigh* visits and "whips" peasants to produce more grain, even if they can´t...


    "My friend, is there something wrong?", asked companion.
    "No, my companion. Let us just continue towards Nottingham.", said merchant. And they silent continued on...


    TotW 199 - Pursuing Liberty
    freedom, dictator, blood, purple, dagger
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner - R-teen
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    My dear Mary,


    I hope you never get to read this letter. I’m writing this with a smile on my lips, hoping that soon, very soon, I’ll be holding you in my arms, in a starry night, as I lit a candle and put to flames this letter, and cherish your smile as you're amazed by dance of the flames. I hope to be beside you when you fall in love. To wipe away the tears in your eyes, whenever you feel down. To caress your hair, should a boy break your heart, and promise you that I’ll beat him black and blue for making you sad.


    But we may not be so lucky. In that case, know that, such is the way of life. Sometimes you have let go of the very thing that is dear to you the most, in order to protect it. And it is piercing my heart like a dagger that I would never know how are you looking right now. Is your hair long? Or do you crop it short? I hope it is short. (Ask your mother, she knows how I love short hair. But if it reaches lower than your waist and you crop it after reading this letter, I’ll kill you)! What colour are the walls of your room? Yellow? Purple? Pink? Ah I bet it's pink. I don’t know why you girls all love that. (Paint it purple honey, will you?)


    My dearest, I’m wishing with every fiber of my being to hear your childish laugh once again. So please, laugh more often. Know that I’m always with you. Watching you. Whenever you see a rainbow, I want you to remember me. Every time you cry, I want you to know that I’m there for you. Just think of everything you want to tell me, listen to your heart, and you’ll hear me talking back. (Don’t mind the signs of teardrops on the letter darling, it must be your mom's. Me, I'm still smiling, hah...)


    I hope the world you live in now, be one devoid of the words tyranny, sorrow and war. No talk of dictators on the news. I hope there's no more news on TV's anymore to begin with, and all they show is Tom & Jerry. Ours wasn't so.


    My little porcelain doll, I hope you’ll never have to let go of your loved ones as I did. Because, as hard as it was for you to grow up without a father, it was a million times harder for me to leave you. But this is the price we must pay for freedom. This is the price I’m paying with my blood, for you and your mom to have a better life. And I'm paying it gladly. I'm sure you will understand.


    Happy 16th birthday, my darling daughter. Daddy is so proud of you.


    P.S. Be a good girl, will you?
    Entrant 2 - Dance
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    March 11, 222
    Emperor's Palace
    Palatine Hill, Rome



    What began in the morning as a light rain has graduated to a heavier fall, near noon. A shrouded figure in a purple cloak moved up the cobblestone road, winding around a small hill, where up top, the villa of the Roman Emperor was situated. There had been oddly only half the usual Praetorian Guard on duty, with sentry posts left completely unmanned.

    Going with near absolute freedom of approach, the cloaked figure reached the top, and approached the courtyard gatehouse, where he was confronted by one of the Praetorian Guard, who gave him a suspicious look - the shrouded figures head remained down, concealing his eyes. The second of the Praetorian stepped towards the other guard, and laid his hand upon his comrade's shoulder, so as to stay him. The guard spun around, wincing in confusion.

    The cloaked figure proceeded through the entrance way of the gatehouse, and through the desolate courtyard - the rain now pounding thunderously against the ground. The figured continued up the steps of the villa, and inside, where no guards were present. He proceeded up the stairs, and the shouting of a young man could be heard, but still nobody had appeared. Continuing down a corridor towards the screams, the shrouded character removed his hood, and had seemingly gone in a circle, as he turned the corner, he was now along the balcony corridor, over the courtyard, and the shouts of an infuriated young man grew louder.

    The unclear shouts had now become clear. "Insolent swine filth!"

    slowly, the shrouded character put his hand inside his cloak, and drew a simple dagger from his waist-fastened sheath, and held it firmly in his right hand. The voice of the man grew louder. "Insane dictator? Fools, Gaius. The lot of them!"

    As the mysterious figure in the purple cloak reached the split in the corridor, he had surprised the young man walking towards the balcony, assuredly for air, as he was vocally flustered.

    Walking into him, the figure stuck the blade into the young man's gut, deep and without hesitation, he slowly drew it back out. The victim cringed, and fell upon the shrouded figure, looking into his eyes, it was clear this was the Roman Emperor, Elagabalus.

    "For the preservation of the Empire, and the dignity of its patrons," the cloaked man uttered, the words piercingly cold and without a hint of remorseful feeling to them.

    The cloaked figure just stood his ground, as Elagabalus turned to his servant, Gaius, who against the wall, slowly stepped away, turning and then running into the villa. He had been abandoned by those he trusted most.

    The emperor's hand was reddened by the blackened blood that seeped out of his wound. He slowly backed away, towards the balcony railing, grabbing it, and falling over it to the puddled courtyard below, he looked up, the last vestiges of his life slipping away, his last breath, expended.
    Entrant 3 - Scottish King
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Senators, representatives of our great republic,

    We stand today at a crossroads. For over one thousand years we have stood as one united world, ruled not by one sole person but by the people. These same people have chosen us; we selected few, to represent them, to carry out their will through the policies that we put into practice here within these very walls. It is our duty, our obligation to the people and the global state over which the blood of many of our beloved sons was spilt to establish, to uphold the principles upon which our great state. But what I have heard argued here today frightens and worries me that we will move from the crossroads and down the wrong road which brings only darkness.

    We face uncertain times. Three times an unknown enemy has come from the skies and three times we have pushed them back into the cold darkness of space. But three times our homes and cities have set alight with fire; three times they have struck fear like a dagger into our hearts. And now that fear has driven many into this assembly to believe that our current system is flawed and not able to deal with this threat. That at this time of emergency, certain powers that belong to this assembly should be invested in one man among us and I can’t think of any words that could convey the disgust that such a suggestion driven by fear should be proposed by my colleagues. What you want is a dictator.

    I know what you’re thinking. It’s only temporary. It will only be to get us through this time of fear and destruction. But who’s to say when that time will end. The man who is holding the power? I think not. This assembly? By the time it takes action, the dictator will be so entrenched in power we will be rendered useless. And do not say it can’t happen because it has happened before and if we approve this plan of action now it will happen again and that purple and gold flag that is the symbol of our freedom will be nothing more than a symbol of an era we brought to an end on this day.

    Let us not be blinded by fear into making rash and may I say it plainly, stupid decisions that will do us more damage to our people that any threat from the stars. If you want to give up your rights; your freedom to feel safe, then your take your cowardice elsewhere because I’ll rather die a free man than live in “safety” with no freedoms.
    Entrant 4 - Aquila Praefortis
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    Finally I could cast my necessary dishonesty and be myself. After all these years, I almost forgot how to be myself.

    I began a speech before my men, Recointing what we all saw before us. "Behold the palace of the tyrant. Behold the dwelling of the man who turns his citizens into slaves! Behold the lair of he who executes our leaders at will! What has this dictator done for us? Why should we call him king? Why should we pledge our allegiance to him? He has forced you to drag stones for his temple, like beasts of burden! He has executed our senators because they were inconvenient to his tyrannical reign! He drown a man a man for expressing his disgust to 'our' king's obvious lofty arrogance! There blood is on his hands! He has no right to wear the ​purple of kingship on his clothes!". I was just getting warmed up. Pausing for breath, I continued my uncle's achievements.

    "This usurper gave no burial to his father. He raised a son lustful to his own relative, and she is now dead for his sin! He has torn alliances and made war with whomever his heart desires, without breathing a word of it to the rest of the government! He has taken our freedom and our rights, just to hoard it for himself! His cloak-and-dagger are barely concealed by his own disgusting aims: all for himself. He is not a man loyal to Rome; he is a man loyal to one: himself!"

    I knew I could go much longer and in more detail, my uncle has reigned for twenty-five years, but I said enough. Men loyal to Rome, chanted my name, "Brutus the Liberator! Brutus the Liberator! Brutus the Liberator!" With a flourish of my sword, I signaled a march up the hill, upon the palace.
    Entrant 5 - Paraipan
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    “They look like boys in a brothel.” The Dictator thought, looking at the poorly concealed daggers sticking under the conspirators’ garments. He knew these daggers were intended for him, for his back most likely, knowing their cowardice. In his face they placated him with flattery and pompous titles, but at his back they called him a tyrant. Knowing all this, he rose from his throne and addressed them.

    “I see everyone here brought a dagger. I didn’t. I thought armed men weren’t allowed inside the Senate. Or maybe those aren’t daggers and you’re just excited to see me. Either way, I’m equally disgusted.”


    The conspirators froze and starred at each other. One of them, keeping his nerve, stepped forward.


    “We are the Liberators of our Rome. We only pursue freedom for our people, and if that means killing you, so be it.” The young senator said with a lot of gut, rumor spreading through the large room, echoing on the cold marble of the walls.


    “And what have I done to constrain the people’s freedom, noble senator?”


    “You wish to crown yourself king, you wish, to keep the Senate weak, to make it your puppet!” Another senator gathered his courage.


    “Even if that would be true, you haven’t answered my question. What have I done to constrain the people’s freedom? From what you say, I only plan to constrain the Senate’s power.”


    “The Senate and the People of Rome!” Shouted the same senator. “They’re the same thing.”


    “And then why the people of Rome love me, while the Senate plots against me?”


    “The people don’t always know what’s best of them.” A third senator finally got the guts to speak out.


    “And you do?” The Dictator asked amused.


    “Yes. The people are easily won with triumphs, bread and circuses.”


    “So killing me would give them back their freedom, a freedom they don’t even know they lost. Is that right?”


    “Yes.” Several senators responded in a chorus.


    “You really believe that?” The Dictator adopted a grave stance. “Spilling my blood on the Senate’s floor would only stain it. Stain it for eternity, for there isn’t any honor in killing an unarmed man under the roof of the Senate.”


    “A tyrant must be taken down by any means.” One senator shouted and drew his dagger, walking up the few stairs leading to the Dictator. Encouraged by this act, other followed, daggers in hand and vicious looks in their eyes.


    “But by deposing a dictator through murder, will only lead to a worse tyranny. You can’t build anything true on unjust foundation. Is that what you want, Roman Senators? Your hands and the Senate floor stained for eternity?”


    “Kill him!” The young senator shouted and plunged his dagger, the Dictator’s blood spreading on his purple toga. Others followed and with every hit another coward dared to strike himself.


    “You brutes...” And the Dictator fell.

  8. #48
    Hitai de Bodemloze's Avatar
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    Default Re: TotW Story Index

    TotW 200 - Ancient Rome
    Betrayal, Legion, Greek, Citizen, Roman, General, Service

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    Winner - The Thin Red Line

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    A Line Too Thin
    Southern Italy, 216 BC




    He strained to see through the eddying clouds of dust, to hear above the tramping of nailed feet, to feel anything beyond the ominous shuddering of the ground. Somewhere, beyond the swirling maelstrom, were the legions. They were coming, and they were coming right at him. Suddenly his line seemed too thin, his men too few and the Romans too many.


    For thirteen years he had fought Carthage’s wars, since his birth his city had been locked in a struggle with Rome, or so it seemed. The crossing of the Alps, Trasimene, Trebia, everything that went before paled into insignificance, today would see his greatest triumph, or ensure the destruction of his homeland. His line was too thin.


    Rome’s greatest strength was Carthage’s greatest weakness, her ability to spawn seemingly endless numbers of citizen-soldiers was matched only by the incompetence of her generals. Carthage’s army on the other hand, was operating at the very limits of its endurance. Having all but occupied Southern Italy for two years, his men had ravaged the country, splintered Rome’s allies and destroyed all who had opposed them. Still though, more Romans came, while little news, and precious few reinforcements arrived from home. It had to be today, it had to be. Yet his line was too thin.


    He glanced around, Iberians from Carthage’s holdings in their lands, and Gauls, recruited from beyond the Alps, stood in groups, organized along racial and tribal lines. Further out lay his most experienced troops, drawn from Carthage and Africa itself. His horse lay on the outer ends of the formation, Spanish and Gallic cavalry on his left, the lighter Numidian horse on the right. While not much to look at, every man among them was a veteran of years of conflict, conflict that went back much further than the two-year expedition to Italy. His line stretched beyond the limits of his vision, and he knew that his men were spread thin.


    Sweat dripped into his eyes and he wiped it away with a muttered curse. Waiting, always waiting, the soldier’s lot. He had done all he could in the months leading up to the battle; his forces had hit a Roman supply depot, doing what they could to hamper his opponents, but it didn’t seem to matter, Rome was as relentless as the tides. In response to the raid Rome had rushed an immense force south, taking him by surprise. His commanders had advised a retreat, to reorganize and take stock, but he banked on the fact that, following a few victories in minor engagements on their way down country, the Romans would be overconfident despite year upon year of defeat. So, here he stood, at a place called Cannae, waiting, with a line too thin, and an enemy too vast.


    His scouts had reported a force of around 80,000 men and over 3,000 horse, eight legions in total, one of the largest forces the city had ever put into the field. To counter that he had the battle-hardened remnants of a once great force, 40,000 men and 10,000 horse; the horse, perhaps salvation lay in the horse.


    The dust in front of him cleared for a blessed moment and the infantry formations the Romans were so famed for came into view. Crouched low over their heavy shields, the legionaries marched in solid, blocks, packed tight together in the Greek manner, the men marched with purpose, their steps falling in unison. Individual faces were lost behind their heavy headgear, their bodies hidden by their huge, body-length shields. His line was too thin.


    Ahead of the legionaries a furious battle had erupted between the light troops of the two armies. Roman javelinmen threw their long, supple spears, aiming for a ragged line of Carthaginian slingers and archers. These tough, self-reliant combatants had been engaged for over an hour, initially ebbing and flowing back and forward as one side took the initiative, only to have it wrested from their grasp. However, over time the superior numbers of the Romans had driven his men backwards, though they had inflicted horrendous casualties among their opponents. He knew all of this, though the entire action had taken place far from his view. The cursed dust made control impossible, though his commanders knew the roles they had to play down to the minutest detail.


    In comparison to the ordered lines of Roman infantry, Carthage’s army resembled a motley crew of warriors from what seemed like every corner of the earth. Numidians, as black as coal, swarthy Spanish and pale skinned Gauls with fiery red hair, to name but a few, they made up a mongrel blend of colors, languages and beliefs. All that held them together was his own force of will, and a shared hatred of the Romans. Their equipment was old, two years old at least, and worn by constant use and many of them were a long way from home. Not one of them, himself included, would pass muster on the drill fields of Carthage. He suddenly longed for the wide-open plains of Africa, but banished the thought immediately, feeling it a betrayal of his men.


    His men had fought the Romans before, all knew what was to come. Soon those faceless blocks would stop, an order would be barked and the legionaries would unleash a volley of two or three javelins. Uninspiring as they might appear, these delicate projectiles would arc through the air, landing among his men, piercing anything short of a shield. Once the javelins were spent the legionaries would pause before breaking into a run, then a sprint and finally colliding with their opponents in a mass of metal and muscle.


    Knowing what to expect made the prospect of what was to come no less horrifying. He had fought for what felt like his entire life, yet he still felt his heart skip a beat whenever combat drew close. He would stand, he knew that, but he was also no fool, the prospect of steel sliding between his ribs sent a shudder through his body, he readied himself, rejecting thoughts of fleeing the field, the time was now. But his line was too thin.


    A messenger pushed and shoved his way through the lines to reach him. Saluting, the exhausted man thrust a slip of paper into his general’s hand. Once again wiping sweat from his eyes, he quickly scanned the two lines of spidery scrawl. All was well, the cavalry was in place. He returned the salute and sent the messenger running back to his horse.


    Over the next few minutes more messengers arrived, all breathless, all having to pause to collect their thoughts before giving their reports. His forces were in place, foot and horse was deployed as he had ordered, his subordinates understood their tasks. All was well as could be expected. But his line was too thin, and his foe too many and no plan survived first contact.


    The shattered, bloodied remains of his skirmishers reached his line, pushing their way past their compatriots as they hurried to the rear. Many had paid the ultimate price in service of Carthage, but it could yet be in vain. This fight would come down to the skill, discipline and bravery of his foot and the drive of his horse.


    The Roman skirmishers fell back and the legionaries paused. The order was given, as he knew it would be, and the air turned black with javelins, one, two, three flights. His men instinctively raised their shields, crouching as low as they could, yet still many were struck and cries of pain went up along the Carthaginian line.


    With a bellow the Roman blocks started to charge, the earth shook and his world condensed down to himself, the men to his left and right, and the faceless mass bearing down on him. “For Carthage!” he screamed as he parried the thrust of a wickedly sharp gladius. His line was too thin. He prayed the Romans had noticed.




    --




    The battle of Cannae was one of the worst defeats ever suffered by Rome. Hannibal Barca’s line was indeed thin. As the Roman infantry advanced, the Carthaginian center fell back and the overconfident Romans continued to move forward. On the flanks Hannibal’s cavalry routed their Roman counterparts and the experienced Pontic infantry on the end of the Carthaginian line enveloped the Roman formations. The Carthaginian horse stuck the rear of the Roman lines while the flanking infantry engaged the extreme ends of the enemy force. Completely encircled, the legionaries were pressed in upon each other until movement was all but impossible, and were hacked to death by the pitiless Carthaginians. Of the approximately 85,000 men of the Roman army perhaps as many 75,000 died. Cannae remains the purest example of a double envelopment in the history of warfare.


    Second Place - Maximinus Thrax


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    The glorious chariot of the sun-god Helios, drawn by his fabled winged horses, was slowly descending behind the seven hills of Rome, paving the way for which appeared to be a starry night, a much welcomed moment of relief during the Dog Days of the summer, which occured in the months of Quintilis and Sextilis. The scorching powers of Helios were at their peak, and, in the mind of all Romans, he alone was to be blamed for the diseases and discomfort which always plagued the empire around that time of the year.


    Each evening, after a hard’s day labour, almost every soul the under the Roman thumb was seeking refuge in one of the countless tabernae (or taverns) scattered everywhere, where one could always find cheap wine, a frugal meal and some form of entertaiment, whether it was about gambling, whoring or listening to the bawdy lyrics of a petty poet. However, the most wealthy citizens, belonging to the upper echelons of Roman society, were always assembling at private villae, nourishing their mortal senses with the most refined foods and drinks available. Here, in the company of their peers, the potentates of the day displayed their power by organizing lavish banquets, sparing no effort in the attempt to impress the guests. For spending coins was a sure method to bring in more coins, since everyone knew that money begets money, according to the ancient dicton which states that the rich get richer, while the poor get poorer.


    That evening, a group of lecticae (or litters) arrived in front of a newly-built villa, on the Caelian Hill, back then one of the most fashionable districts of Rome. The proprietors of those vehicles, eleven of the most influential senators of Rome, marveled for minutes at the colossal residence, attempting to assess the value of such an opulent construction. This most distinguished assembly of venerable men didn’t even know the name of the owner which had gracefully invited them over for a comissatio, or drinking party. Two days before the event, a Numidian slave had handed each of them an invitation with their names engraved on a golden plate.


    Who could have build such luxurious residence? Perhaps one of those well-off merchants who has just received citizenship and settled in Rome, tired of roaming the provinces in search of profit. Maybe that he wants to acquire influence to fulfill the dream of getting access to the Cursus Honorum (Course of Offices). Could he be Marcus Gavius Apicius, the famous glutton? It surely can’t be him, considering that Apicius committed suicide three years ago, maddened by the imminent ruin. This foolish spendthrift owned much of his sorrows to his uncontrolable habit of wasting fortunes on banquets.


    Suddenly, the imposing front gate opened, and a handful of Greek servants greeted the guests, inviting them inside the mansion.


    ”Welcome, most honourable citizens of Rome! Please come in and make yourselves confortable! My master will soon arrive to take care of his guests” added the chief servant, while nodding his head in a most respectful manner.


    ”Who is this mysterious master that you speak of? Is he by chance a native of Rome? Or he has just established himself here, moving away from some distant place?” asked Gaius Cornelius Marcellus, the eldest of the group, a peevish old man in his late sixties. A shrewd fox like him, who had seen enough betrayals in his long and eventful life, was experienced enough to recognize even the slightest signs of danger, if there were any. His small eyes continuously scrutinized the hallway for concealed perils.


    ”Please step into the dining room, your Excellencies! My master will arrive in a moment” added the chief servant, before vanishing back into the hallway.


    ”Very well then” concluded Gaius Cornelius. ”We will consider ourselves as guests of this master of yours”. The rest of the senators followed Gaius into the dining room, where everybody was overcome with awe at the sight of the golden floor mosaics, the wall paintings and the luxurious furnitures. Gold embellished everything around them. Piles of exotic rare foods and drinks were being brought ceaselessly by servants: venison and other wild animals, exotic fish, raw oysters, lobsters, various birds, not to mention the Falernian, Caecuban and Alban wines. The tableware was made of gold, silver, as well as rock crystal and agate.


    ”We must be the guests of king Midas himself then...” added Cassius Junius Rufus to himself. Envy glimpsed from his eyes while admiring the gilded drinking cups featuring dionysiac scenes.


    ”No, you are wrong, Cassius Junius. It’s not king Midas...” a voice echoed across the room, as the fear took hold of the senators’ hearts. They instantaneously recognized the dreaded voice of their unexpected host. A young man draped in purple silk and velvet stepped into the room. The obscene amount of expensive jewelry he was wearing would have stirred the jealousy of the most distinguished Roman women.


    ”Emperor Caligula! What a great honour! We didn’t know it was you all al-...” gasped Gaius Cornelius, while clasping his throat with the right hand. It was near impossible to hide his horror in front of the emperor, because Caligula was able to read people like no one. The old senator feared for his life, since the murderous dispositions of Caligula were already notorius throughout the empire, and many patricians had already been put to the sword on flimsy treason charges. On top of that, he was also suspected of being an epileptic, a clear sign that the gods did not favour him.


    ”You’re wrong as well, my dear Gaius Cornelius... I’m not the host of this banquet. Please allow me to correct your guess and introduce to you your newest colleague as well as the dominus (owner) of this house” added Caligula. ”Athenaios, don’t forget to bring in the performers as well!” continued the emperor with unbridled enthusiasm.


    A large mass of acrobats, female dancers and mimes swarmed the room in an instance, accompanied by flute and lyra players. At a sign, an Egyptian slave brought in a white steed covered in purple mantles and wearing a collar of precious stones.


    ”Behold your newest colleague, most distinguished senators! His name is Incitatus!” exclaimed Caligula”. I know what you might think right now. That he’s a horse! Believe me, he is not a mere horse. One day I noticed a divine sparkle while watching him mating with mares. Incitatus is a divine gift sent to me by the gods themselves! Helios Panoptes has awarded me this mighty steed as a token of recognition! The gods love me! The gods adore me!” Caligula continued his delirious rant while the senators watched him flabbergasted. None dared to contradict the insanity of such statements.


    ”As long as I’m around, even a horse can perform the duties of a senator since doing politics has never been easier than during my glorious reign! I’m thinking of putting him in charge of one of my legions, to act as a general in the service of Rome! A Roman general! Or better yet... A consul! A consul of the Roman Empire! What do you say, my friends? Will you accept him as your equal?” asked Caligula with a wry grin of the face.


    The senators were stunned. A refusal would have meant instant death, their families dragged into the gladiatorial pits to be devoured by wild beasts. Gaius Cornelius Marcellus was devising in his mind all kinds of possible outcomes, while Cassius Junius Rufus was determined to accept the request, even if the mobs would most likely lampooned him on the streets the next day. At least he would still keep his head on the shoulders and safely reach old age, together with his wife. The sweat stood in drops on his forehead.


    ”O mighty emperor! We accept Incitatus as our equal! I will raise this cup of Falernian wine and drink to his health!” exclaimed Cassius Junius, groveling before Caligula. ”All hail Incitatus, the future consul of Rome!” added the senator. Gaius Cornelius and the rest of the senators were left little choice, and so they yielded, raising the cups as well.


    ”Excellent, my friends! I’m glad you’ve made your best decision yet. Come, let us go see Incitatus mate with his future wife, the mare Penelopa. Their divine offsprings will enable me to become an earthly embodiment of Helios. My gilded chariot drawn by this breed of horses will take me to edges of the world! Every nation will ackowledge my superiority, bowind down before my authority!” exclaimed Caligula with theatrical gestures.


    Later, as everybody gathered in the garden to watch Incitatus mating with Penelopa, all of them drunk out of their minds, Caligula was contemplating the moon alone, dreaming of the day he would fly across the vast skies in his chariot, like a living deity that he was...


    Third Place - William the Marshall

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The sun crawls below the edge of the horizon as though slinking into a hiding place; the field is flooded in a red light that matches the colour with which it is sodden. The dying rays wink off the scattered armour and swords that adorn the dead. Fortunes lie here, well-forged steel that has not yet begun to rust, nicked and battered but still valuable. Indeed, a paltry few looters, driven by greed, desperation, or stupidity, scavenge at the edges of the plain, ducking and dodging to avoid the surviving soldiers. There is much they have to gain from the death of a legion.


    The faces of the dead are spattered with blood and twisted from the echoes of the last pain. They lie, stiff, side-by-side, dark Ethiopian and pale Gaul, haughty Greek and fierce Iberian, who shouted and fought and breathed but hours ago. Now they are cold and empty, their once-bright eyes food for carrion birds. The field is covered in the dead, lying in lines where they died fighting or in swarms where they were hacked down as they ran. Nothing breaks the silence but groans, of pain, for water, for a mother. The field is still…


    …almost still. In one corner the struggle continues, a small knot of survivors still fighting…


    I tighten my grip on the scutum as the enemy begin to advance again. It is not mine – mine was hacked to splinters hours ago – but, then again, neither is the gladius I am holding. Around me, the rest of the First Cohort – or its remnants– does the same. The centurion barks, “Close up, boys! Let’s see them off quickly!” We tighten our ranks to form a dense block around the aquilifer and his eagle, battered after the long battle. Centurion Bruttius catches sight of me and shouts “Marius! As far as I can tell, I’m legatus now, so I’m promoting you to tribune! Take thirty picked men and hold them on the left until we smash the centre and swing round to hit them!” I chuckle briefly before I comply. Since the general is dead – or ran off, we don’t know which – I suppose the centurion can do what he likes. Anyway, Bruttius is a good sort, and should have been promoted before this. He would have been, but the higher-ups don’t think he’s a proper Roman, for all that he’s a citizen, and they keep passing him over. I trot my thirty out to the flank and form them up carefully, making sure I don’t seem rushed or panicked, as the enemy run at us, waving swords and spears, shouting curses and war cries. I watch Bruttius’ men in the centre hit the enemy line with a crash of wood and metal and flesh, then brace myself for the same to happen to us. I see that many in the enemy ranks are equipped just as we are and mentally curse them for their betrayal of Rome and the Emperor, for their blind service to this usurper who seeks to take the purple. Then they hit us and I am too busy to care any longer. I catch a spearpoint on my scutum and stab the man before me in the belly, wrenching my blade out in time to block another foe’s slash. Shoving my shield into him, I force him back, then hamstring him with a blow to the legs. Before I can finish him off, I am set upon by three more and I stumble back into the ranks as I dodge their strikes. Hacking and stabbing, I notice a smudge of dust on the horizon, and vaguely wonder what it is until my attention is wrenched back to the matter at hand.


    From the south, a din of drumming hooves and shouted orders. Cavalry, cantering ahead of the main force, scouting for the enemy. They rise over the crest of a line of hills and see the battlefield, strewn with the dead, before them. More orders; messengers are sent to inform the commander while the rest spur their horses down onto the plain. One man, eyes sharper than the rest, sights movement amid the growing gloom. He rides to the force’s commander and points it out. Just then, the sun slips below the horizon, and its last light illuminates an eagle, shining over the heads of the last few men. The commander nods, waves his sword, and issues an order; the cavalry turns and gallops toward the standard.


    I shake some blood from my gladius, panting, my arms like lead. Looking around, I can see that my thirty men have been reduced to twenty, at most. To the right, Bruttius’ men still struggle to push back the men attacking them, driving them back a step or two before being themselves forced back. One of the enemy notices my distraction and tries to take my head off with his sword; I stop it, barely, and return the favour. He falls, limply, killed instantly, and I return to the fight. As we battle on, I notice that the enemy’s battle cries have died down and they now fight in grim silence. The field is eerily quiet now, with no noise save the clash of steel and the ragged breathing of the men, and I realise that this is the first time I have fought them without hearing their shouts. I know not whether this is good or bad.


    This stricken field is insignificant, no matter the beliefs of those on it. It is only one part of a vast game with dozens – maybe hundreds – of players. They manoeuvre armies, build fleets, besiege cities, gamble thrones and lives on the fall of an arrow, the point of a gladius. What matters this legion to a prefect in Gaul or a Scythian chief? Nothing, except as a token on a game board. The emperor these men die for cares not whether they love him, so long as they die for him and not his rivals. To him, they are automata, toy soldiers, painted one colour or another, and sometimes they paint themselves a different colour for some unfathomable reason. To him they are not real, they are not people, not men with families and hopes and futures, but unthinking figures of metal, designed only to obey, to fight and die. He does not love them as they love him, he will not die defending them. He cares not.


    The field is dark now, and we still fight, both sides stumbling in exhaustion, only a handful of men on either side. I cannot tell how Bruttius fares on the right, whether he has triumphed and is moving to relieve us or whether he has been swept away to leave us encircled. My whole world is a scutum, a gladius, and the dimly glimpsed figures before me and beside me. I slash and cut at the men who face me, not even knowing if they are my enemies or my friends, cutting wildly, blindly, at movements in the night. I remember the tiny plume of dust I saw in the dying light, wonder if it was from friend or foe. It is too late now to find out. Whoever it was has doubtless lost us in the darkness, if they ever saw us. I know now that I will die on this field, in the wretched closing act of this great battle. I will not survive this night; darkness will take me, swallow me up with the rest of our legion, and our foes, and none of us will escape it. A light seems to fill me as I prepare for a final charge… and then something changes. A faraway sound, one I had not yet noticed, has grown loud enough for all to hear it. I look to the south, and see a glow of torchlight coming closer, and recognise the sound: a cascade of hoofbeats, nearer and nearer, as the unknown cavalry approaches. The fighting stops, and we all wait to see whom this is, whether these are our saviours or our destruction. Closer, closer, they come, and still we do not know. And finally they spur their horses to a gallop, and I can see them clearly under the torchlight, see their armour and helms, and see the standards of our emperor waving amid the flames. A cheer breaks out among my ragged, pitiful few, and a groan from the enemy, and as they turn to run the cavalry storms into them and strikes them down. Then a roar comes from our right, and Bruttius and his men emerge from the gloom into the circle of torches, and he embraces me like a brother as our men cheer.


    From this field come the cavalry, and they bring with them the survivors. And in the camp to the south, an emperor blesses these men, and calls them brave. And perhaps he does care.


    Fourth Place - ImperialAquila

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    "For Rome!" I cried out as I stabbed my opponent in the stomach, his blood staining my gladius as I withdrew it. Our Legion was ambushed, caught unawares by our foe as we marched towards the cold and unforgiving lands north of Hadrian's great wall. One by one I watched my comrades fall, overwhelmed by the sheer ferocity of the enemy and their whistling arrows that struck from above. Disheartening still, was the loss of our General, who was hacked to pieces by the barbarians. His head taken as a trophy and placed atop a pole wielded by their chief. Their chants, howls, and shouts of victory were sickening and it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand. There's not many of us left and I knew in my heart that we were doomed. Our Legion is finished.


    "Form up and prepare to defend the Eagle!" I shouted over the din of battle and the remnants of my cohort staggered back towards me forming a defensive circle with our Eagle safe at the center. I remembered a simple phrase taught to us when we first began training to be legionaries. "Honor, Faith, Valor, Loyalty. Forward unto death!" I didn't understand then but now at the end, I suppose it all made sense. I nodded to myself for I knew what must be done. If this was to be our end, then so be it. I will gladly accept my fate and die under the shadow of our standard. Time seems to have slowed down as the barbarians drove madly into our formation and I saw my whole life flash before my very eyes.


    I wasn't always like this. I wasn't a soldier in the whole sense of the word. My father was a sheep herder in Larissa and I always knew that I would be consigned to a life of eternal servitude out in the fields tending the flock but it wasn't something that I wanted. I was quite an adventurous youth and I dreamed of one day leaving the boring life of sheep herding to travel the world and see places I've only heard about. When the Romans came to our village seeking recruits for their Legions and telling us of a life of adventure, citizenship and decent payment, I was the first to signup without hesitation though I knew in my heart that soldiering wasn't for me. Every Greek lad I knew never found cause to refuse legionary service. After all, who would if the alternative was getting old and never getting the chance to really live and enjoy life to the fullest? I got home and packed, ignoring my father's protests and raging accusations. His anger slowly turned into despair and he started pleading me not to go but alas, my mind was set and I left him without a word. I didn't know then that it would be the last time I would ever see him.


    I'll skip the tales of endless hardships, of training and the countless battles I fought for Rome. By the time I was 30, I was promoted to Centurion of the 1st Cohort, stewards of our Legionary Standard. Now I was no longer known as Cassander for I have left that name behind as a relic of the past but as Quintus, a citizen of Rome and my fellow Centurions also nicknamed me Quintus Macedonicus out of jest. I even took a Roman as my wife. Lucilla, daughter of our commander, whose hand was given to me for my valiant efforts in saving his life on numerous occasions. Months passed and we have been given a new post. Britannia. It was there that we experienced the most brutal fighting ever. The cold weather and never ending resentment to Roman rule is taking it's toll on us. Everyday we received news of chieftains rising up and spitting on the Empire, betraying their oaths of allegiance to Rome. Everyday we had to send out a Cohort or two to avenge the blatant disrespect and betrayal, stamping out the dissent. We were growing weary of it and we were bored. We were not gaolers and peacekeepers. A Legion is not meant to be kept idle but should be used aggressively. In the days that would follow, I would come to regret my wish.


    Fresh orders came to us to move north to face a tribe that is plotting against Rome. According to the reports, they have massed a huge army and are gaining more supporters from both sides of the wall. They were a threat and must be destroyed. Many of us looked forward to the prospect of a real battle and we even had wagers as to who would draw first blood. But even as I laughed along my with them, I couldn't help but feel that there was something very odd about this mission. Something very "final" about it. But I dismissed it as pre-battle jitters and I pushed the thoughts back. Once we cleared the borders of the Empire, the atmosphere quickly changed. The woods we were passing through was awfully quiet. Too quiet. One normally hears all sorts of things but here there was nothing but silence. The happy chirping of the birds were absent and it was then I knew something was wrong. Before I could continue my deep thought into the matter, one of our standard bearers was shot by an arrow. "Ambush!" cried one of the men as he hastily brought his shield up. "Form Testudo!" bellowed our General, getting off his horse and unsheathing his gladius. Turning to one of the men on horseback, he said "Flavius! Get to the rear of the column and order them to fall back now! We need to get the Legion out of this terrain and into the clearing!" The man nodded and set off at once but he never got to the rear for he was shot down by a hail of javelins halfway through. All around us we heard the enemy howl at us like wolves circling their prey and with the sound of a trumpet, they charged at us from all sides. When a Legionary Cohort is in Testudo, it is hard for the men to fight in hand-to-hand combat and in that, we faced a dilemma. Remain in the formation and suffer casualties against a head-on battering assault or disperse and suffer casualties from enemy missiles. It was a no-win situation and so began the battle. No, I said to myself as I watched the carnage unfolding, it was not a battle at all. It was a massacre. Others ran away to save their skins while others stood their ground, unyielding and grimly facing down the enemy.


    A hard jolt to the side of my helmet brought me back to my senses. I saw what's left of my Cohort struggling and being dragged down by the barbarians. This was indeed the end and as I grabbed hold of the Eagle standard with my left hand, I closed my eyes and whispered, "Forgive me father. I love you Lucilla". I opened my eyes, tightened my grip on my gladius and screamed out with all the strength I had left in me "Roma Victrix! Roma Invicta!" as I charged into the barbarians.


    Honor, Faith, Valor, Loyalty. Forward unto death!


    Entrant Five - Cohors_Evocata

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The day had just dawned when Quintus began preparing to sneak out of the house. He had been planning his visit to Roma for a few weeks now and he was absolutely not going to get caught again. His plan was not going to fail this time. Today he would finally be able to explore the city on his own. For the last time he checked if he had everything he needed. His dagger? Check. His leather pocket with denarii. Check. His clothes? ‘Check’, Quintus thought with a smile. The beggar orphan had been overjoyed he’d gotten three denarii from him. Sure, he had to give Quintus his clothes, but he’d been willing to do a lot more for such a reward. Quintus even had luck on his side, for he’d been making extra sacrifices to Fortuna, surprising both his parents with his newfound piety. With that in mind, Quintus quietly left his room and entered the dimly lit corridor.

    ‘That was easier than expected’, Quintus thought, as he casually strolled down the hill. The slaves had been too busy to notice him. The guards hired by his father had, quite literally, thrown him out of the house. They had not recognized him due to his new outfit. ‘All in all, I’d say that’s mission accomplished,’ Quintus thought with a large grin on his face. This was where the fun started.

    Even though the day was still young, the Forum was already buzzing with activity. There were shouting merchants, dancing actors and lots and lots of other people. And young Quintus was having the time of his life. Up until now he’d only visited the forum in his palanquin, surrounded by slaves and guards. He’d never been able to take a good look around. And now, finally freed of his unwanted companions, he was overwhelmed by the sounds, scents and sights. The overcrowded Forum seemed like a whole new world, nothing like the quiet and open house he’d grown up in. As he walked past the many houses, temples and other buildings, he noticed that many people formed groups, hoping to pick up the latest news and discuss politics. Quintus, curious as he was, was eager to eavesdrop and find out more about this strange new outer world.

    He had no luck at first: the first group he heard talking was using a strange language, incomprehensible to Quintus. He recognized a few Greekwords, but they were mixed with others he did not know and were spoken too fast for him to understand. Luckily, the second group he listened to spoke Latin and Quintus could listen all he wanted. ‘It’s a disgrace,’ an old man shouted, ‘for any Roman to take up arms against his fellowcitizens and against his homeland! A betrayal that is not to be forgiven!’ ‘Marcus Tullius has every right to do so!’ another man shouted back, his voice filled with anger and sarcasm. ‘Did our beloved princeps himself not take his title with brute force?’ ‘But he took it from a brutal tyrant!’ Quintus heard, as a third man entered the discussion. Afterwards the group quickly disintegrated into loud bickering about who was right and who was not. Quintus had quite a laugh when several men, apparently drunk, loudly made their way through the crowd and, without a clear motive, began fighting amongst themselves.

    Despite all the fun he had, Quintus began walking back to whence he had come. The temperature was rising fast and Quintus was getting really thirsty. Besides, if he was quick, he might just convince the people at home he had been hiding somewhere in the house. He would surely be punished for that, but far less severely than for sneaking out of the house. As he began climbing up the hill again, his thoughts drifted back to the discussion he had heard on the Forum. He had certainly heard of Marcus Tullius’ rebellion, as it was a popular topic of his parents to talk about. According to the latest reports, Tullius and his army had recently arrived in Gallia Narbonensis and were preparing to cross the Alps. ‘If only my father were still in command…’ Quintus thought. His father had been a renowned and respected general, in service of the city and the princeps. He had often told stories about his campaigns against the uncivilized barbarians across the Rhenus. His older sister, Flavia, would usually be scared of the danger their father had experienced, but he always was proud of his father and strove to become as brave as he was. He sighed when he thought of his sister. She would soon leave them, as father was already looking for a suitable husband for her. His sister was sixteen now and in their younger years she had often comforted him when he was afraid or sad. But that time was over: he was ten now and on his way to becoming a man. He had not cried for a long time now and he resolved not to do so when his sister would leave them either.

    Getting into the house was no problem at all. He simply talked to the guards and, after convincing them who he was, they let him in. Now began the tricky part. He had to pretend he had been hiding somewhere for all this time. He quickly decided he would hide in one of the many, small rooms next to the garden. He never got there. Almost as soon as Quintus stepped into the atrium, his arm was suddenly grabbed and he heard a familiar voice shout his name. He had been caught by his stupid paedagogus. He tried to get away at first, but soon ceased struggling. The slave carried him to his father’s workroom. ‘Let’s hear what your father has to say about this, shall we?’

    Quintus kept his head raised defiantly as he confronted his father. The man standing across the room reciprocated with a stern look on his face. Constantinus’ eyes still were capable of the intimidating look that had made many subordinate officers cower before him. Quintus remained unfazed. His father had taught him never to show fear in face of an enemy and he was not going to show it to his father either. Constantinus hid a smile behind his stern face, for secretly he was proud of his son’s determination. But that did not mean his deeds would go unpunished. Just as he was about to scold his son, a woman came into the room. Before he could react, Quintus was buried in one his mother’s asphyxiating hugs. Constantinus could not contain his laughter as his son protested and struggled to free himself from his mother’s grip. ‘That’s enough, Horatia.’ Grudgingly his wife released his son and Constantinus made a half-hearted attempt to regain his posture. He failed miserably.

    A whispered message from one of the slaves notified Constantinus that consul Regulus had arrived. The present matter would have to wait. ‘With you I will deal later, Quintus. Now, go tell your sister where you’ve been, for she has been worried sick about you.’ As his son quickly left the room, Constantinus turned towards his wife. ‘I told you he would be safe.’ ‘Are you sure the guards did not lose him for even one moment?’ Horatia replied. ‘No. The prefect told me his men had a lot of fun when they saw our son clumsily sneak through the house.’ ‘It’s a good thing we had them informed about his plans; they might have stabbed him to death if we had not.’ ‘Nevertheless, this trip of his was necessary. You remember what happened last time, do you not?’ ‘Yes, I do’, she admitted, ‘I’m relieved all went well.

    In the meantime Quintus had run off to look for his sister. As soon as he found her, he began telling her of everything he had experienced. She pretended to be surprised, but off course she had known all along. Everyone in the house had. She had been worried about her younger brother, but his happy smile convinced her it had all been worthwhile.

    ‘Now, princeps, so far your plans are proceeding well. The third legion Augusta has arrived in Tarentum, after embarking from Carthago, and is on its way to Roma.’ Constantinus took no pleasure from the consul’s words. He was still not used to the title. ‘But, princeps, are you sure you will command the legions yourself? There are others who could…’ ‘No,’ Constantinus interrupted him, ‘I will deal with Tullius myself. I will not fall the way my predecessor did.’ He was silent for a moment. The view of the city from the Palatine hill was unrivalled by anything else he had seen in his life, magnificent and frightening at the same time. ‘Now consul,’ he said, as he turned towards the man, ‘the die is cast.’



    Entrant Six - Lord of Shadows

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    "These are dangerous times. Our enemies are threatening Rome and are just a few miles shy of her doorstep. Nevertheless we shall stand against them and triumph!" Those were the words of Cornelius, the great Roman general. He was an honorable man who has served the Empire for years and every Roman citizen knew him. He was the commander of three legions and he had the loyalty of his men. His victories were legendary, earning him the title "Magnus" and his efforts has seen Rome expand her frontiers to distant lands. Such was his reputation. But dark clouds loomed overhead and once again shrouded Rome in bitter darkness. Great evil whispers into the hearts of great men and Cornelius slowly turned his backed from the Empire. With the fires of his ambition kindled and his insatiable lust for power he marched against Rome. For five long years the civil war engulfed the entire Empire, pitting brother against brother, ripping families apart and turning friends into foes. Until at last the day came when Cornelius was finally defeated and he is called up to answer for his betrayal.



    Years have now passed. The civil war was over. Yet even then the festering evil remained. Biding its time and waiting for the day when it will go forth once again to corrupt the hearts and minds of those who are to weak or blind to resist. The only now question was when?



    "Name?", asked the stout Roman legionary sitting behind the desk as he looked at the newcomer with a cold stare of loathing. "Eurylochus sir!", replied the newcomer with a hint of pride and enthusiasm in his voice. "Eurylochus of Argos." he continued while standing in stiff attention. The legionary shook his head with disgust and said "A Greek eh? I've seen a lot of Greeks today and quite frankly I am sick of the whole lot of them." He glared at Eurylochus and continued with a hint of malicious mocking in his voice: "What makes you think you are good enough for the XII legion? You boy-loving bastard." Eurylochus bit back his retort and replied: "I know how to use a sword sir, and I never turn my back on my orders." The legionary took in his words and nodded. He paced around Eurylochus which reminded him a lot of a wolf circling it's prey."Alright, take this shirt and get in there.", hissed the legionary as he thrust an old grey shirt at Eurylochus. "Next!", he called out. Eurylochus could hardly believe his luck. He was now a legionary of the Roman XII legion and after a few years of service might finally be grantedRoman citizenship. As he entered the barracks with thoughts of bountiful loot, slave-girls, and glorious battles, he felt excited. The days on the barracks were filled with hardships as every legionary was constantly tested and trained. The tests designed to gauge their physical strength, stamina, and mental prowess were extreme to the point of brutal. Eurylochus himself began to regret his decision of joining the legions. He had expected the rigorous training but not like this. Long forced marches were very common and more often than not, many of his fellow legionaries bore the scars of old wounds inflicted by the discipline masters of the legion. Of course though, not everything lasts forever. After two long years of training they were finally sent out to face their first combat.



    The Germanic tribes east of the Rhine were making regular incursions into Roman territory and must be stopped. The XII along with the X and the IV were to be sent on a daring mission beyond the frontier and into the heart of Germanic lands. Their mission was to defeat a barbarian army being raised by a Teutones chief. The army, which was a a mix of Marcomanni , Ambrones, Batavians, and Suebi, was almost a hundred thousand strong and the odds were not in the favor of the Romans. Despite this, the legions were undaunted and marched on without fear. Eurylochus was a bit reluctant but he knew a legionary needed to be tough and so he too went forth with his head held high. After three days of marching, they finally arrived at the front. When they arrived, Eurylochus saw that the X and the IV legions were already there and most of them were getting impatient. "It is about time this mindless rabble arrived.", said one of the legionaries from the X. "Did you delay coming here because you were afraid of the big bad Germans?", said another one and they all laughed at the XII. "Hey you! Shut up!", said Lucius with a growl. Lucius was the biggest legionary in the XII and the most ill-tempered too. Eurylochus recalled vaguely when he first encountered the massive brute and he never sought to get in his way again.After all, he still bore the marks of Lucius' mighty right fist. "Oooh! We're scared big man!", taunted the X legionary and his buddies laughed even harder. Before Lucius could lash out the man, the commander came and intervened to put an end to the conflict. "Enough! Save it for the real enemy. There's no point in wasting your strengths." The legionaries averted their eyes as if chastened by the commander's words. "We march tomorrow so eat a hearty meal and rest.", he continued. After that he walked away without another word.



    Their journey across Germania was fraught with perils. First they were ambushed halfway by the enemy and lost 300 men from the IV legionalong with 70 from the XII and the entire 5th cohort of the X legion. A lot of casualties suffered but it was a victory nonetheless. Eurylochus felt a shiver down his spine as he thought about the recent battle. He was alright but it left him a bit shaken. This mission was hardly beginning and already they have lost such an astounding number of men. What was next he thought.



    The legions finally reached the clearing with a wide and open field. Eurylochus knew that this would be the ground of the next battle. It gave him some comfort to know that this was terrain where cowardly ambushes were of no use. They pitched camp and prepared for the coming battle. The next morning before the sun rose and the cock crowed, the entire Roman camp was awoken by the sound of trumpets. "Up! GET UP!", shouted a centurion. Eurylochus took his sword and shield and rushed out of his tent when he saw that they were taken by surprise. Many of the legionaries haven't donned their armor yet. "What is happening?", Eurylochus asked stupidly. "We are being flanked on the right you boy-loving fool! Get to your position! Now!", shouted the centurion. "Lock the shields! Form shieldwall!", he shouted to the cohort as the barbarians neared their lines. "Hold them and push them back! FOR ROME!", cried the centurion. Eurylochus uttered a prayer to the gods asking for victory as the battle started. It was bloody. The barbarians flanked the IV legion and swept the entire left wing away in one swift blow, while the Xlegion on the center continued to hold against the famed Germanic berserkers. On the right the XII fared better than their comrades and in a daring move pushed the entire barbarians left wing and surrounded the berserkers. The cavalry which was now finished with their enemy counterparts swung around and attacked the barbarian right from the rear which resulted in the barbarians losing their nerve and retreating. After mopping up the remnants of the barbarian army, the victory trumpet was sounded.



    Rome won this round and successfully defended her Rhine frontier. The enemy will be back that is true, but glorious Rome will prevail.


    Entrant Seven - Aspasia

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The Roman-Punic war in the senate discussed.


    In the year of 272 B.C the Romans just drove out the greek forces of Pyrrhus and tensions grow high between Rome and carthage. A new time has arrived,a new era will begin, A new era of Roman conquest!
    To the North are the Etruscans located and beyond them the celtic tribes. In the east the successor states are constantly infighting eachother.
    With the mighty Seleucid empire who constantly has to repel satraps claiming their independence the east should be easily conquered by our mighty legions of Mars
    In Africa were the old carthaginian empire is located, they commited betrayal to Rome when they broke the fourth treaty after the Epirote forces withdrawn to greece to fight their own greek people.


    Consul Spurius -'Yes, people of the senate, The time has come for expansion. Carthage with its constant provocations gives us an excellent excuse for declaring war on them.
    Senators of Rome, I Consul Spurius Carvilius Ruga am pleased to announce my ambitious plan for The republic of Rome to wipe out the carthaginian empire!
    We will use our experienced soldiers who participated in the roman-pyrrhic wars. Their first goal is to capture the iberian colony qart hadasht.
    Meanwhile in Rome we will raise new legions who will fight in greece to avoid new pyrrhic invasions on our soil, we will fill our ranks with the mercenaries of sparta who are enemies of epirus: The famous spartans who recently have driven out the epirote forces out of sparta!


    Senator Avidius-'Great consul with all respect, how will you fullfill your plan when the we are out of funds and how will we feed the citizenswhen we barely can feed our armies?'


    Consul Spurius -'if you disrupt me one more time when i'm speaking i will personally dismiss you from your office, Now what you just said has its own solution in my plan.
    Taxes will be increased but we will keep the plebs happy with bread and circusses which will happen once every year. Now about the food problem: when Qart Hadasht and the Epirote capital has been taken,we will send our newly recruited general Publius licinius to Sicily for the grain resources.


    Senator Avidius-'Thank you great consul for taking your time to explaing your plan to me, but please continue.'


    Consul Spurius -' When those steps are successful we will make an immediate and surprising on the mighty city of carthage itself.
    The attack will be made in two big steps:
    -We will blockade the harbour of carthage with our hired pirate fleet from Cilicia.
    - Our general Publius Licinius who has been ordened previously to take the Epirote capital will lead the frontal attack on Carthage itself.'


    Senator Magnus -' Consul the city of carthage is getting guarded strongly, They have high numbers!


    Consul Spurius -'They have indeed high numbers, however our spies tell me that alot of the Numidian mercenaries who are in service of Carthage have low morale. They can be paid off for fighting on our side.
    This will give our enemy a great blow and without their cavalry their they are vulnerable.'


    Senator Magnus -'Even with the taxes increased we can't pay them!'


    Consul Spurius -'Indeed we can't pay them, but i never intended to pay them too. When we have convinced them to join our side and have taken the city of carthage we will invite the leader of them in our city were will commit betrayal and murder him. Thus so shall we place an own roman general under the command of the Numidians.'


    Senator Magnus -'That's just cruel and dishonorable what you propose us romans'


    Consul Spurius -'Indeed, you're right, But it's all about the goal we achieve and not how, We don't have the time for thinking a diffrent strategy or must we wait untill that attack of the carthaginians on our own territory?


    Senator Avidius -'And general Publiuc Licinius, is he loyal enough, won't he betray us?


    Consul Spurius -' Yes he has an enormous hate for the carthaginians, Both of his parents got kidnaped on Sicily and they got offered on the altar of their barbarian god Bâal.


    Consul Spurius -' Enough of this talking! We must have voted before the night falls otherwise this discussion was for nothing! Let us vote! Will we wage war for leading Rome to unlimited heights? or will we remain a small state were carthage dominates the mediterrean sea?


    Magistrate Bacchus -' The proposal of Spurius has been accepted with 253 votes against 147 votes.'


    Consul Spurius -' War shall come, Blood shall fall,men will die ........ Carthago Delenda est!'


    All senators -' Carthago delenda est!!!!


    Entrant Eight - The Bold Burgundian

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Men like us sit bewildered in the present. We amuse ourselves with luxuries and knowledge bought for us by the suffering and blood of ages past, asking to those around us how could those Greek and Roman scholars, the most learned of the ancient people, not know the truths of our existence? Perhaps they were not the wisest they had been claimed to be after all? In our modern reality we are comforted knowing that most has been revealed to us, and it is only a matter of time until the few things we don't still understand are fully explored and categorized.

    Our security was not without it's price however. We know of every legion lost in war and the millions of people scythed down by disease, figures and death-counts fill our minds as we can only imagine the experiences of those who were unlucky enough to be involved. We wish we could have been there, to see such things with our own eyes, shielded of course from whatever danger there was.


    We know of the great leaders of these people and we study them furiously, trying to dissect and explain who they were and what they did and cram it all into a pair of paragraphs in some textbook for countless eyes to glaze over. The great general is the most idolized man in war. We study his tactics and his methods of discipline, we chronicle his rise from citizen to his grand role in service to whatever his cause was, be it tribe, nation, religion,or idea. But never do we look beyond that, it is dangerous to delve so deep.


    But of every reviled betrayal recorded in history, the most devastating and world-changing is what we do to ourselves. The truth we know is absolute and infallible, whereas the ones before us which were so grudgingly cast aside and left in the dark were not. All those lives sacrificed to reach this truth will never be fully appreciated, we should envy them for they are free from this self-destructive course. We know history more than we know one another, we hold each other at arms-length because we cannot forget who has done what, and what was done in return.


    Tribes, nations, religions, opposing ideals, they are all the same. All are the excuses we create to become wronged by another. The borders of blood on our atlas are all we see. A man who is different than I is surely my enemy, is an easy thought to understand. And the thought that is easiest to understand is the most widely harbored in the world. We would sooner hew our only home into splinters than share it. To never forgive and forget,that is the nature of man.


    Perhaps those angelic beings who we so desperately hope are watching above us may show us mercy, or at the very least pity, when the end finally arrives. I am no wiser than the next man, but I wonder what kind of ending we deserve. I hope we meet the worst of all fates, I hope humanity slowly claws itself apart as it has been doing since it all began until there is no one left. This is perhaps the most poetic end I could wish for, what was born in blood, dies in blood.


    Entrant Nine - Hoplite of Ilis

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    A GREEK IS ALL IT TAKES


    - P(a)eninsula Italica is Roman! We are fit to rule... We are on the rise... I don't see why we can't rule the whole of Europe!
    - Europa Romanorum?
    - Yes!
    - Europa Barbarorum cannot be turned Romanorum so easily.
    - Maybe... But eventually... Remember how we defeated the Macedonians? Ha!
    - Betrayal was what defeated the Macedonians Remus. Dealing with the Greeks should have taught you that much. Or, maybe you think you have learnt nothing such from them?
    - Hmph! You should talk!...
    - Hahaha haaaaa.... What's wrong Remus? Do you really think that us Greeks invented betrayal? Or is it that you're under my command? Me, Deinomachos of Athens and Commander to you!
    - I see you are in a playful mood again... You never told me why you left Athens. You Greeks - of all the conquered - are free to choose. Why trade Hoplon for Scutum? Kopis for Gladius? Democracy for Republic?
    - The money's good! Said Deinomachos with a smile.
    - What?! No philosophy this time?
    - War is the father of all...
    - That's more like you. Care to elaborate?
    - Delenda Carthago.
    - So? What's it to you? You are Greek. They've done you no harm.
    - What have they really done to you Remus?
    - Just answer me.
    - The man who trained the Carthaginians into fighters is also Greek....

    Remus was ten years in the service. A true citizen. Not much of a choice when war broke out. He liked the idea of the Republic. It took care of him and he took care of it. Their last commander had been mortally wounded when hunting boar. The boar gutted his horse and he himself broke his neck from the fall. The fool! He had seen so many battles, revolts, ambushes, so much death! In the end, all it took was a wild pig.
    It is impossible to escape destiny those Greeks always said... Remus expected a new commander from Rome. He was more than shocked to see a long haired bearded Greek marching into the camp at the crack of dawn, bearing all the seals and papers, accompanied by a squadron of Equites. The Greek dismounted and took a look around him. No one moved.
    "LEGIO EXPEDITA"! He shouted! The horns sounded the arrival of the new Commander. Everyone was in order for inspection. Remus was stunned! A Greek! A Greek as Commander! A non citizen! This is the fall of Rome! Remus started to have a headache. Little did he realize that the new Commander was already standing in front of him.

    - What is your name Legionnaire?
    - Remus Mettelus Aquilla!
    - Something the matter Remus Mettelus Aquilla?
    - No... Commander!

    As time passed, Remus learnt of this Greek. Deinomachos of Athens was his name. He had done a great favor for the Praetor himself. From what Remus heard, Deinomachos saved the Praetors' daughter from certain death. The details varied. Some said she was taken by a river current and that Deinomachos happened to be passing by. Remus couldn't care less. He was very suspicious about the new Commander, and became even more suspicious after he heard that the only reward he asked was a place in the Roman Legion. And what a place that was! Commander. Unbelievable!
    This was war. What if this man is a spy? How could the Praetor give him command over us? The new Commander wasn't talking much. He says he's from Athens but he talks like those Spartans. Remus was ever watchful.
    The day came when Remus was trapped in an ambush along with his entire battalion. "I should have known", he thought. Sending us out here! That bastard of a man! Juno damn you Deinomachos... I will die with my brethren beside me, and never again see Rome.
    Remus spitted and readied himself. It took him a long time to eat those thoughtful words when he saw his Commander, the Greek, charging with his Equites to his rescue.

    - So the Carthaginians have a Greek general. We've fought Greek generals before. Alexander The Great, he's not.
    - Do you like Alexander the Great, Remus?
    - What kind of question is that? That man made you who you Greeks are. He did the unequaled! He is an example to all Greeks and Romans alike! He belongs to us all! He...

    Remus stopped talking when Deinomachos gave him a certain look.

    - Who we Greeks are.... Deinomachos paused for a while. Who we Greeks are... He repeated.
    - Deinomachos?
    - Let me tell you about a higher idea Remus! It's called constitution! Remember Alexander's last words? "To the strongest! My kingdom goes to the strongest" This is what we Greeks are. Conflict in the flesh! Alexander took Hellenism far and wide, yes. And if he hadn't died he would have taken it even further. But what did he leave behind to keep us Greeks together?
    - I never...
    - What Alexander did, was based on him and him alone. No constitution! Nothing homogenous. After his death, everything crumbles. Hellas was lost due to lack of constitutions. Rome may rule because of them. Alexander took Hellenism to the four corners of the earth but he forgot to leave his egoism at Pella. Rest assured Remus, it is not the giving of Roman citizenship that will destroy Rome. It is the deterioration of your ways as Romans. The moment you stop acting as a whole, as a pack, it is over. The day people become mob, you are done for.
    - As a whole you say? Are you referring to....
    - Yes, the Spartans... Always.... so high and mighty. Always looking down on so many things. On the rest of us. But they knew. They knew! Even when they lost, they never really lost... They valued their laws above all. And when they abstained from them... I'm not sure any more Remus. What is great and what is not...

    Remus came to a new, maybe prophetic, realization that day. Is this the future of Rome? To bite more than it can handle and choke on it? Can there be a universal Rome? Should it be? And then what? Today we are all equal citizens. But tomorrow... What will the distant future know of all this? Of us? Will the future generations look back on us for inspiration or prostitute our names and ways for the sake of branding and empty words? Will they cripple us because of ignorance? Distort us? Make a mockery of Rome?...
    And what is really mockery for Rome? Facing a defiant enemy today? Or facing the ignorant future judgment of people who may have yet prove better? Remus was thinking beyond himself, and far beyond the present.


    - What's on your mind Remus? Are you being philosophical too?
    - Deinomachos, what do you think of all this? You are to lead the first wave of attack against Carthage.
    - Destiny cannot be escaped Remus.
    - Do you think this... Spartan general of theirs will make a difference?
    - A Greek is all it takes. Perhaps...
    - Do you fear?
    - No. It is... something else.
    - Something else Deinomachos?
    - Something appealing! Something appalling...
    Reforged
    A Skyrim AAR

    Otousan

  9. #49
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    Default Re: TotW Story Index

    TotW 200 - Ancient Rome (continued)
    Betrayal, Legion, Greek, Citizen, Roman, General, Service

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 



    Entrant Ten - R-teen

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    "Down beneath every vast and prospering empire, there exist an ocean of blood;” I remember our general, Marcus Licinius Crassus shouting at us on the day we were setting off, “the distillation of every drop of blood ever spilled on its grounds.” His cold blue eyes assessed the silent soldiers standing in order, moving from one to another. “Our blood,” he continued, “and that of our foes that our brothers throughout the history have shed. Of the sweat of our fathers and forefathers. Of the tears our mothers have wept.”

    His words made my heart beat faster, back in the day that is. They used to excite me. I thought they will grant me the will I needed to march ten leagues a day, when my feet threatened to give in beneath me. I thought they will be the laces keeping my shield tight around my arm, when my hands were failing to keep up. It was through that harsh tone of his, that I was made to realize that there was going to be no looking back when there was an enemy in front to scowl upon. Once, his words sounded glorious. Noble. Honourable. Something to give your life for, perhaps.

    “Rome is thirsty. She needs blood in her veins.” He was good at this, I had to give him that. “Will you not quench her thirst? Will you not, with your blades, guide those volunteered rebellious slaves to feed Rome with their blood?” As he was running his eyes among the soldiers, he held each person’s gaze for a moment or two. For a second, those cold eyes fell upon me “Will you hesitate to die for her?”


    71 BC. Crassus is assigned the command of an army of eight legions in order to face the slave uprising under the leadership of the Spartacus.
    ——————————————————————————————————————————————

    His words were echoing in my head as I was running. Words however, are sometimes inadequate. What a few bits and pieces of wood are going to do when there is no flicker of fire for them to strengthen? How empty his words sounded like, when there was no hatred for them to breed. I never had any slaves to worry about keeping them in order. I was yet to feel at risk of losing a beloved in the wake of the atrocities they committed. No agonizing winters of clattering teeth in the pursuit of their armies was behind me; how the hell was it expected of me to stand my ground, when I see my friends abandon position and retreat in panic? I wonder, how Crassus himself would have taken it, if he saw those angry beasts charging straight at him?

    I watched a giant one of them impale a legionnaire on his spear, almost lifting him from ground. I saw hatred, burning like fire in those black eyes as he was looking at his victim, who was still incredulous of the long rod of wood passing through his abdomen. His black eyes then fell on me as his victim ceased to struggle.

    I didn't need to turn my head to see how alone I was, among that hell. “FALL BACK!” I heard someone shout. “FALL BACK!” The sound was coming from behind; from my companions. We were being slaughtered.

    He was already in the process of taking his spear out from the body of my fallen comrade. “RUN!” The shouts were still coming, but getting fainter, and now almost masked by the sounds of steel clashing, and the zing in my head. It is most cruel and unfair how sometimes, the decisions of harshest outcomes can so easily be taken, without your mind giving you the simplest of warnings.

    Run I did.


    Crassus’ and Spartacus’ army meet. A cohort routs in the first encounter of the two sides.
    ——————————————————————————————————————————————

    I had killed men — not so many perhaps, but regardless, taking a life weighs just as much as taking quite a few on one’s conscious — if not heavier. Among whom were those who had done me harm, and those who would have done me harm, if given the chance. And those who I had never met. Perhaps the passage of years could have wiped my memory clean of each and every one of them; of the look on their faces, of their screams as the realization of the pain I had inflicted them hit. There is one however, that I’m sure no measure of time could have been forgiving enough to make me forget.

    There was this Greek little bastard who had migrated to Rome when he was a kid. He always used to smile; there was really nothing that could shape the bastard’s face in such a way that it didn't look like it was smiling.

    One day in the first week we had enrolled — two years ago, that is — I remember our officer was lecturing us, with a serious amount of enthusiasm, about our duties as soldiers and the responsibilities we were about to take on, and all of a sudden he sees that bastard, staring at him, all the while smiling like a halfwit. He didn't really fancy his soldiers showing their cheerful mood when he was serious, you could say. He had him flogged that day. I could almost swear sometimes between his outcries of pain, I saw a hint of smile on his face.

    Life however, can be a sick son of a [IMG]file:///C:\Users\Tom\AppData\Local\Temp\msohtmlclip1\01\clip_image001.gif[/IMG] sometimes.

    But how could have we expected our fates to turn out any better? We struck down upon those who rose against being forced into service of us Roman citizens, just to claim their freedom. Perhaps it is befitting for us who resorted to being the hands delivering them to their deaths, to endure the agony of seeing the look on that bastard’s face, and have his dying screams haunt our dreams. This has to be the punishment of us who, in fear of sharing the fate of the unlucky bastard on whom the dice fell, did the most monstrous actions. This was the price we had to pay, as Crassus saw it, for cowardice. For betrayal.

    We beat the poor bastard to death. I watched him scream, bleed to death, his scalp deform until he fell silent.


    Crassus decimates the cohort — or presumably, the whole army.
    ——————————————————————————————————————————————

    They had separated the POW's in groups of ten and to each group they assigned a patrol. I was one of the patrols that night.

    “Let him go," a woman among the captives moaned, "I beg of you.” It was deep in the night and most of the camp, along with all of the other slaves in the group under my watch, asleep when she started her pleas. “I don’t have anything left to give you. Your colleagues took every piece of metal I had on me.” She looked as she was 40 or so. Even in her disheveled state it could be seen how pretty she was, was she to wash up and wear clean clothes. “Please, please let him go.” She gestured to a bruised and bloodied young boy lying beside her. “He’s just a kid. Look at him, he’s only fourteen.” Tears started to trickle down her face, yet she still preserved the look of a warrior. “Do whatever you wish to me. Anything. I won’t even resist or make a sound... But please, please let him go. I beg of you.”

    I was never a quick maker of decisions. As a result of which, a knapsack of regrets I always carried with me. This time however, I didn't need to think twice. I had a chance to redeem a portion of my soul. If there's anything capable of washing the stink of a friend's blood off of it, this has to be it. Those words, unlike Crassus', were some that could make me happily forfeit my life.


    I looked around. There was a horse straying a little farther from where the rest of the beasts were being kept. I could't see anyone near her. With the most of the camp fast asleep, he had a chance of getting away in my uniform and armor — not a good chance, but somewhat worth trying. He was young alright, but his stature wasn't that revealing, and from where we were stationed, he needed to keep the disguise for only a few minutes. He could gallop thereafter. It was a dark night, and the mountains weren't far...


    After a series of encounters, Spartacus’ army finally faces full defeat, and most of the men, women and children in the rebel army are killed. About 6,000 end up as captives in the hands of Crassus.
    ——————————————————————————————————————————————

    Nailed to the cross, I couldn't help but to smile as I reminisced the face of that bastard being flogged. Slowly, my view of that slaughterhouse of crosses faded to a peaceful void.


    Crassus crucifies the POWs along the road leading from Rome to Capua.
    ——————————————————————————————————————————————


    Entrant Eleven - Ybbon

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Script excerpt, working title: “Requiem for an Empire”
    Opening scene.

    [Camera 1] Waist high.

    Camera to pan slowly from the left, a line of brown hills are visible in the distance, they waver and are unclear in the heat haze. The foreground shows brown and yellow grasses interspersed with meadow flowers slowly dancing in the sunlight. Focus on a few stems and flowers as we complete the pan. A road appears in camera from the right and stop when the road fills the picture, we can see the road is a dry and stony. We can see the sun is high and behind the dust clouds – the road runs West to East.

    Play sounds of songbirds and insects in the background. Camera raises until we see a dust cloud in the distance and a distant sound of the regular tramp of booted feet on the road. We cannot see any figures yet as they are obscured by the haze and dust.

    A metallic clink is heard on the right hand side and the camera view sharply turns to the source, a bearded man wearing a chainmail vest, a short tunic covers him to mid-thigh. The man holds a large round shield on his left arm with two thin javelins held in his right hand, a sword belted to his left side.

    [Camera 2] Chest high, right of road.

    Switch to cam2 which is to the right of the road and at chest height, angle view slightly up, pull back slightly and we see figures hidden in the grasses similarly garbed as the first man. A lithe man wearing a helmet and cloak, his gear marking him as an officer of some kind is seen where the first camera started. The man speaks in a low angry growl at the first man we saw. “Androcles! Quiet or yours will be the first death today, now down!”

    [Camera 1]

    Switch to cam1 and look to the officers left. Another soldier is crouched down but dressed in Roman armour. The first officer turns to him, a smile plays around his mouth – “Well Roman, now the end of your betrayal plays out, your old Legion dies today in front of you, it must make you feel proud to know your part in this, General?” The Romans’ face is etched into a snarl, “Listen you Greek whoreson, I know what I do and the consequences of all my actions better than your mother knew your pig of a father, what we do today is a service to the Empire, your part is small and will be forgotten before the year is out”.

    The Greek smiles sardonically at the Roman – “Any time you want to do this all by yourself, let me know, we can go and find some accommodating Roman matrons to amuse ourselves with instead and let you Citizens of Rome sort your own mess out. How is that young wife of yours these days? I hear she is quite the beauty”. He gives one final evil grin to the Roman and turns back to the road. The Roman gives a hard glare but with a smile that the plays along his face after the Greek has turned back to the road.

    Sound of marching, horses and carts should slowly build through the conversation and now when we turn back it is loud. Turn to the road and we can see the Legion in more detail now, cavalry at the front, cohorts of infantry behind and a baggage train before a screen of cavalry at the back. Skirmishers flank the column.

    [Camera 3] Birds eye view centred on the road.

    Pan slowly along the line of the moving Legion, cavalry at the front and Legionnaires in formation down the road with eight cohorts and in the distance wagons and more cavalry. Pull the focus in quickly to see the riders out front and then slowly run the camera down the line of the soldiers, we can see the dust ingrained in their gear and their weariness as they march in step, Shields on their left, gladius on the right and pila carried in the right hand.

    [Camera 4] Moving along the line of the Legion.

    Move focus to the hooves of the horses and then the legion, pass the camera along the first cohort and then stop to follow the Centurions at the head of the second cohort. Focus in on the lead Centurion, clean shaven but dusty. He turns to the man behind, “make ready to spring the trap, we go right, the first cohort goes left, third cohort stays on the road, ready pila” there is a ripple down the line as men shift their shields and grasp their pila more firmly.

    [Camera 1]

    The Greek General glares at the Roman and angrily turns on him “betrayal wrapped in betrayal? And they say never trust a Greek, still at least you will be speaking with your ancestors this night”, with that the Greek leaps for the Roman with his sword sweeping out, focus on the blade as it descends and crashes into the Romans own gladius. “You think we would need the likes of you to win? Your service to me and Rome ends here, Sparta dies today!” With that the Roman sinks a dagger into the guts of the Greek and pulls upwards. He stands quickly and shouts out to the lead cavalry who are now level with him, “Now! Spring the trap Brutus”

    Notes:
    Will script the exact detail of this later. Switch between cameras. Initial ideas would be some bloody sword work spilled guts or horses and men. I want to see the Legion loosing their pilum with javelins and pila hitting into Greeks and Romans. Greeks rout after a bloody stand and are then chased down by cavalry. Sweep across the battlefield to show many Greek dead and some Roman.

    Final shots will be birds eye view to see five new legions joining the First. Last shot of this scene is the standard of the first Legion fluttering in the wind with some blood stains in one corner.


    Entrant Twelve - Yeepeep

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    This is how most of the heroic tales of old usually begin. Or at least that was what your grandfather used to tell me, back when I was your age.

    The young, brave boy receives the unexpected news of his father's demise at the hands of someone usually merciless (typically a Roman, if the storyteller is Greek), and always cruel and barbaric (the other way around). The young, brave boy sheds but a single tear, more to honor the memory of his fallen parent than as a show of personal weakness. Then, without a second thought, mounts his fiery steed, gathers around him a few brave, loyal souls who swear their loyalty and who promise to follow him to vengeance, to glory and even death, and rides into the night.


    Only to return but a few short months later to his poor mother who, weeping with joy at the sight of her courageous offspring, embraces him with a force of compassion and gratitude that would otherwise crush a lesser man's bones or tear his sinews apart. Our stout boy is now all grown up, stern and serious and, with a remarkable consistency amongst all tales, always triumphant and victorious. The treacherous slayer of his father, locked up in chains, wrapped up in rags, smeared in dirt and caked blood, drags his feet in a dejected resignation behind his fearless captor, his judge, and his soon-to-be executioner. The noble companions who so readily entered into the service of their newly-minted leader casually trot on either side of him, their quiet smirks and fearless eyes speaking volumes of bravery, camaraderie and perils encountered during their by now legendary adventures.


    The brave boy returns home from his perilous ordeals to the wholehearted cheers of his elated fellow citizens, praising his courage, his wisdom and his strength of arm. Working themselves into delirious frenzy, fueled by a deadly mixture of injured pride and absurd expectations, the welcoming crowd promptly pronounces him their fearless leader and mighty general, who is to elevate them to epic deeds of valor and glory. And he does.

    K
    Every story. Every. Single. Freaking. Time.


    Remarkable...


    Sometimes I can't help but wonder. Were these mortal humans the courtiers and crones crooned about? Or were these fantastic ballads meant to praise the omnipotent Gods themselves...


    A hundred golden pieces say no mere human can ever strive to achieve such heights of courage, of selflessness. And good luck to those who take my wager and try to convince me otherwise. For I see no other possibility but for a divine intervention at play in any and all of those glorious stories of old.


    I mean, how else could it be?


    Did those brave boys have no hearts?


    Did they have no feelings?


    Were they immune to grief, or despair?


    Did they never fall prey to the dark deeds of betrayal, or to the searing flame of lust?


    Were they never torn apart by a lover's rejection? By apathy, or depression, or family discord, by envy, or by a legion of other typical human emotions that torment the rest of us for as long as we draw breath?

    Neither fear, nor remorse gripped their young, naive souls?


    Did their minds not twist and turn at night, agonizing in doubt when the rest of the world is quiet?


    Did their bodies not suffer from illness or from wounds, from fire, or frost?


    For, if human they were indeed, they could not have had bones of iron or flesh of steel. Nor the mind of a God. Because flesh can, naye, flesh will fail even the mightiest of warrior and bone will give, or worse, bone will snap for even the bravest of man. And mind, ah, that cruelest of pranksters betrays us on each and every step along our way, unexpected, unprovoked, unbidden.


    Did I mention that our brave hero never fails to marry (and always by pure, consensual, almost mythical love) the most beautiful woman the eyes of man have ever gazed upon?


    Like my mother, uncle? She's beautiful, isn't she?


    Just so, you clever boy, just so…More beautiful than mere words can give justice to. A creature so perfect, so pious, so good-hearted and so noble that the Gods themselves chant joyous hymns about. A passionate woman, who wholeheartedly embraces our valiant hero and happily joins him in a holy union under the approving eyes of her father. And it goes without saying that these two love birds live happily ever after, spawning a mighty legion of offsprings who proceed to be an even greater source of further heroic tales of old. A source of legend!


    Preposterous, I say to you my dear boy, and utterly absurd too. And to Hades with anyone who believes it otherwise!


    But now come, my dear nephew, let us go inside and I shall tell you a true story of a real hero who just lost his father. And worse still, he was left heart-broken by those he loves most dearly…


    Entrant Thirteen - Edek

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Marchers
    Marchers. That's what our grand Republic's army was − it was the one word that encompassed every one of us soldiers within it, without exception. Professional, deadly they said: senators and legates, boasting merchants and the proud people of the Republic. It was just a euphemism really. Marchers, that what we really were.

    That was what we spent most of our time doing, and if we weren't doing that we were setting up or knocking down camp, and if we weren't doing either of those we were fighting. Legionary life seemed to have a sadistic way of ensuring sleeping, relaxing, whoring and drinking were kept to a minimum. Certainly not what the recruiters told us. That took its time though.

    We'd been raised to fight the Greeks and oppose Macedonian power in Hellas. After our first battle we'd all been heady off the taste of victory, and for almost a year we marched undefeated, until our feet were hard and our hands calloused from sword and shield and pack. They say you never forget your first battle though honestly all I can remember is a blur, a bath of blood and dust and shades half-seen. Even the cries of the dying and our commands were ghostly things through the pall of dirt thrown up by Mars’ bloody business. I never forgot my first kill though. That was a memory clean-cut from the cloth, haunting – still dream about it to this day. That spear point driving at me, sky-blue eyes like chips of cobalt glaring from behind a bronze-faced helmet and the sickening crunch of my sword biting through flesh and bone. Finally, we were driven from the hinterlands of Aetolia and forced into retreat. It was only then, when our vision of victory receded, we saw what such an extended campaign had cost us. The Legate ordered us home.

    Those marching skills of ours were put to the test as the legion fled the Dalmatian coast. We beat our escape through hills and forests, dodging Illyrians, hill tribes and our Greek pursuers before they finally gave up the chase. No cohort among the VIII reached home above half-strength. Yet when we came in sight of home the sting of our blistered feet was all but forgotten. Great green swathes of farmland opened up before us cut by clean stone roads, and the mile markers, ha – then I knew we were home.

    We stayed near Cannae for four months, the recruiters parading through the streets calling all able-bodied citizens to join the VIII and soon we had our army...well, we had bodies in uniform anyway. In fact, to date, that's the longest we weren't marching or fighting, not for a long time. Getting the recruits up to scratch was the next task. That took its time though. Two other legions waited on us and some General​ with his charges from the Senate. He wasn’t happy with these delays – no doubt he had his eyes on glory or some civic office − and when he told our Legate of his ‘displeasure’ those poor sods who’d joined up probably wished they hadn’t. It was for the best though. The paces our instructors put them through were for their benefit, and though the recruits grumbled they wouldn’t find the enemies of the Republic near so forgiving.

    Me and the lads were just happy for the break. Once we started marching we might never see home again. So we ate real food − not hard-tack and dry-cured pork − saw the sights of the city, bathed in real Roman baths, and by night we drank. We doted on comely and homely serving girls alike, the company of women a luxury none of us would pass up. Those who warmed our beds the last we women we might ever know. It was the little things like that you savoured when not on campaign; reminded you there was a normal life waiting after all this was said and done.

    It wasn’t all leisure though. We were still soldiers after all. Drills, patrols, route marches, preparations and more, we had all that to do as we waited, and all this off the back of the occasional hangover. Bacchus and his cruel jokes. The Gods should warn a man when he’s going to regret doing something, and they should certainly stop him inflicting the same upon himself night after night; marching down the streets, every step and holler of song more out of tune than the last as the night went on and the drinks went down.

    You could always tell something was amiss though when the centurions curtailed their nights. The camps became more sombre, the drills took on an edge of iron even if the weapons were wooden and the recruits…you could tell you were almost done when they thought themselves ready. They’d learn soon enough.

    Word spread quick after that. On the morrow we’d march − time for us to make good our service to Rome and the Republic, and lay her enemies to rest. Soon the stamp of iron-shod boots and hooves would fall upon the stone, Italia would wave goodbye to us Sons of Mars as our painted shields passed by city folk and country farm-girl alike; to applause, to cheers, to indifference, or a kiss blown on the wind as we soldiers left our homeland behind.

    We’d serve, we’d fight, we’d march. From Rome to Hellas, across the Alps if needs be, from shore to ship across fair Mare Nostrum and beyond for all the world to see. To the ends of the earth if the Roman people demanded it, or our generals command it.

    Gods be good though I pray no day sees such a betrayal inflicted upon us − just because we’ll march doesn’t mean it should be asked of us. But then that is our lot as Marchers.

    For now I fear the Greeks mean to welcome us back to Hellas, and death may ensure we never have the misfortune to hear such an order to march.


    Entrant Fourteen - Aquila Praefortis

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I was impatiently scrutinizing Apollonia’s tax returns, looking for any loopholes that might have been used. The governor there was very good at attempting to not pay full taxes, never using the same tactic twice in a row. I had enough problems in my kingdom, not to mention those foulRoman barbarians to the north. It was quite infuriating to have to solve these petty games when I had more important problems to deal with. A knock came on the door, and Theodosius unobtrusively entered. I told my loyal secretary to have no one enter, and he broke the very rule he was supposed to administer.

    “What is it?” I asked with as much patience I could muster. He was, after all, guilty of directly defying my orders.

    “Sir,” Theodosius began, “King Ptolemy Ceraunus has been killed by invading Gauls-”

    “WHAT!?” King Ptolemy Ceraunus of Macedon was a close friend and ally for the last two years. This was bad news.

    “-and the Macedons have asked you to ascend their throne as king.”

    Well, this was good news after all. Macedon phalanxes might give the edge I need over Roman legions. But before I could properly respond someone else burst into the room, nearly flattening the slightly built secretary.

    It was Herostratus, a senior-ranked messenger. He had already begun talking, oblivious to the stumbling Theodosius. “King Pyrrhus,” he bowed, “I have received word that the Greeks of Sicily as a whole have asked you to lead them against Carthage and Rome in there lands as theirgeneral.”

    This day just keeps getting better. But what choice should I make that will better harm Rome? Should I be King Pyrrhus of Epirus and Sicily, or King Pyrrhus of Epirus and Macedon?



    “Sir, the Romans have crossed the Trebia!” my runner alerted me. In the distance a little under a mile away I could see dust in the air and mud downstream, signaling large enemy movements.

    “All of them?” I asked, hardly above a whisper.

    “Practically.”

    “Hannibal,” my shield and armor bearer said to me expectantly, “Now?”

    “Wait,” I replied, “Wait until they are committed.” Patience is the mark of a true general.

    Doubts plagued me. Would I win like at Sagus River or Saguntum, or will it be as miserable as the march to the Alps? Would my outnumbered conglomeration Carthaginian citizens, Libyans, Spaniards, and Gauls prevail against a true Italian army, with superior infantry?

    Now is not the time for this. You can do this. Remember what Father taught you.

    “Now.” The shield and armor-bearer blew a horn, signaling Mago’s detachment from the south to begin his attack from behind.

    A few moments later I ordered my main army to begin a counterattack. It was not easy for several ethnicities to when to march as one, but I had trained them well. Well enough that we could beat Rome.

    Baal, I thought reverently, I am in your service and Carthage’s forever. Let Mago come on time.

    The Battle of Trebia had begun. The Invasion of Italy has commenced.



    Where were those reinforcements? I sent my men on a desperate charge that cost many lives days ago. The Roman had already finished a wall around my own was nearly done with an even larger second wall facing outward. My reinforcements were not going to come as a surprise. It is unfortunate, but there are at tens of thousands of them coming. My situation was desperate. All the women and children here are at the no-man’s land, starving like the rest of us. The Mandubii’s plan hadn’t worked against the cunning Julii. I had worked my mind against his for months now. I was running out of tricks.

    My beloved homeland and so many others’ are going to fall to the Romans. I did what I could, but now I will suffer what I must from a betrayalby those I called my friends. The relief force has abandoned me. . . .

    No! Do not think like that! It was despair in a moment of fatigue, nothing more! More men are coming to my aid, then we will completely outnumber the Romans: three to one at least. We will win, then. We must, for all of Gaul.

    I gazed below at the trenches and wall the Roman had built, trapping me in this fortress, trying to ignore the children’s’ cries for food and help in between the walls of opposing encampments. I wish my men had something to give them, but there was nothing I could do put pace for them.

    A few hours later, I heard a cheer from the other side of the camp. Drawing my sword and preparing for the worst, I rushed with all the strength I had left to see the commotion, preparing for the worst.

    I received the best.

    The reinforcements have arrived, ready to take part in the battle! One hundred thousand fresh men! I hardly remember now the speed and ease of moving when one is not half-starved. The relief force was about to throw themselves at the walls. They needed help. My help.

    I ran to the stables and grabbed my magnificent white horse and mounted as best I could. I began running throughout Alesia brandishing my sword, rallying my men.

    “To me! To me! Run and ride with me! March with Vercingetorix against the Romans!”

    We will break the Romans, or ourselves be broken.



    All these men and more valiantly marched against Rome, to be defeated sooner or later. There fates hardly vary; they receive death, some more heroically than others. How did men of such intellect and will meet the same end? They fought a Rome that didn’t give up or give in. They fought a Rome learns from defeat, not be destroyed by it. They fought a Rome whose people were proud to be Roman, who would refuse to no other. As Livy put it in The Early History of Rome Book I “I hope my passion for Rome’s past has not impaired my judgment; for I do honestly believe that no country has ever been greater or purer than ours. . .” This belief, unanimously agreed my a million souls to the core of their being, is what made Rome unstoppable.

    But Rome had lost it. They lost their sense of pride of being Roman, for luxury often given becomes an expectation. They could reach no higher, and despite all their reforms, they could not continue going up to satisfy anyone enough. The Romans forsook anything they found worth keeping and submitted themselves to have other peoples rule them, the opposite of previous centuries in their history. They lost their patriotism, ideals, and ethics.

    Pray we do not do the same.


    Entrant Fifteen - Amaz

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Professor Boatwright, dean of the Classics department at a university in New York, stands on the last legs of his sanity. He was diagnosed with a strange case of transient global amnesia a mere month ago, waking up fully taking the identity of a man named Caius Martius, and has since been acting in the capacity of an entitled Roman struck with madness. This night he stands alone in his apartment room, feeling nothing but the meters-high breeze coming from the fully open screen-door, bearing on one hand a knife held nearly toward his heart, and breaking out in a final, impassioned lament.

    Let us enter the mind of our troubled and unfortunate soul and see what circumstances pique his sorrows on this, his final day on earth...

    "This! Oh, woe! How we have forsaken you, I shudder to consider the extent! The gods bereave my last few days of any decency, substituting for worse a pain more unimaginable than the loss of Rome herself. They have victimized me with the foulest of divine betrayal. For the last few days, they have shunned my cries, and have taken to me concerning only the most severe of punishments that I physically can bear. It is that I wake up to the reason that the unknown is forbidden to the eyes of the mortal man. It is that I am the only one on earth to bear having to face the two worst deaths that exist: of man, and of mankind!"

    "I am a lost figure. Have I alone become a relic, is this what the time has brought for change in my millennial slumbers? Or have I stumbled upon a tormenting lifetime to hold me before an even worse afterlife? To what good have I been raised if it serves nothing - if I serve nothing, to what more good might I live to do? Where are you now, warriors? Your noble sons of Aeneas? What legacy of yours still stands that is not denigrated by today's rabble mass? Caesar? What is that than a title? There are two too many words in Magnus. Four too many in Roma!"

    "Where now are her citizens? Those who ambled retaining all dignified air and exclusive engagement on one's affairs? Do you mean to tell me that their soil speak the same, uncouth, barbaric tongue my ears hear today, or is deception a cruel trick you enjoy to play among the inquisitive? Can this be where the path toward all civilization ends? To reversion? To devolution? Where has all sensibility gone and hidden itself? Where is my home? Where is Rome?"

    "Where now are her pastoral greens? Her open ranges wide with oliviers, her fields teeming with the fruits of labored toil? Have they all the same given birth to the monstrous structures which paint our skylines bleak? What of those beautiful marbled arches? What of the white polished exteriors? The generations do the feats of their creators no credit, esteem them of no honor, but venerate instead the engineer of dreadful, uninspired concrete mass."

    "What has become of the glory of our military might? Where are my legions!? Tell me what field I might survey, that I repay the insolence of my insubordinate general. No, that room is lost. It has been tamed for the use of state, for the exploitation of domain! I shall not have my armies parade these dreadful urban crowds. But the landscape will leave me no other option. I am tied by the limitations of man - the terrible overextension of his capabilities!

    "Has all respect quitted banter? Oratory? The critical facet of a citizen's duty? When Rome was a republic, we called her so. As she is an empire, we know her so. But now I live where an empire is, and where a republic is named! How long do these people stand this abuse of office and neglect ofservice our authorities command? Can a civilized people stand to be so complacent? Perhaps, I shall not live to discover the answer."

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The poor man - his words have never ringed truer in his own ears. But the remaining contents of his monologue we must further await, as a curious gathering of strangers and passer-by's have crowded the courts outside his apartment, while another group - a mixed one of local authorities and concerned relations to the professor - gather behind his apartment door.

    -H-he'll be alright, you think? Right, Officer?
    -Sir, there's no way for sure. We can onl- oh hey, stand back! Stand back and make the way clear! I got word that our interpreter just got here. Stand back!

    The interpreter and hopeful savior from folly was the professor's son, an aspiring classicist and linguist. Having himself studied in Rome awhile, he has built a curious relationship as translator for his father, or rather, the stranger Caius Martius. Once the hall had been cleared, he made his way - his shaven face growing a countenance of intimidation and determination. He enters the room slowly, hearing some of his father's soliloquy in a sonorous voice uttering in affecting Latin phrases.

    "May the proudest patron of Rome bare shame to what we have lost her to: this vile future we never could have imagined, robbed of the opportunity to see the infiniteness of our work by the brevity of mortal life. May they vow never to fight in her name again, when they much as I become aware of what Empire has produced. But who could have known? Not I, not Caesar, no Roman, no outremer, I establish for certain. For all their wisdom, no Greekexcept blessed by the divine Apollo, and equally who has no fear to brave the tenebrous march of time."

    Witnessing a dying down of some fervor, his son broke the silence to establish his role of deliverance to the distraught old man.

    "Finish not your fatal deed, noble Roman. Oh, what greater fool did I know than my own footmen who cannot task to do even menial labors? Certainly not Caius Martius. Recall that you spend not your living days as an aged man in Rome, but in the den of barbarism that is the far reaches of Gallia. It lies further still than the northernmost point of Britannia, not having been graced by the blessings of our dear civilization! Pain no longer. Look into my eyes, the eyes of a man as sane and healthy of mind as any. Say to me that I may give you some assurance! Let me know what opportunity I have to save you from your idiocy!"

    Caius Martius flew at a rage when hearing these words, standing up to confront the young man he did not know was his son, turning his dagger to face him.

    "You insult me without knowing me! Such bravery, yet such stupidity! I should not stand for it as a citizen of Rome, so much as I stand for it now! Dare you continue to wear my tolerance and patience, or might you come to ask yourself which of us is insane? The man who understands his place and knows that he is not there, or the man who has become comfortably accommodated with every mortal wrong the legacy of our Empire has only compounded!"

    His son was unshaken at his threats, feeling only more resolute to breaking his father's suicidal wishes. Without a second thought of his consequences, he shouted back with boldness and temerity

    "Never will I admit to such!"

    Mere moments followed a gash of the throat, and for his audacious act, his fate was sealed. He collapsed backwards, lying slumped upon the leather ottoman as his head reached the floor with the a hard thud. From his mouth he lipped his final words under what short breath remained - "Consumatum est."

    Police had waited long enough for these futile negotiations. They broke the door down and rushed in, but were stopped as quickly as they had started. For before them was the body of the fallen son, cradled in the arms of a man that was not Caius Martius.


    Entrant Sixteen - Shankbot de Bodemloze

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Could one man do it?

    Could one man defy the will of the gods?

    Azbuhal smiled, of course he could – he was a Kazuak and that meant only one thing, his life was a service to a purpose greater than the gods, greater than his life, greater than anyone’s life. He was a slave to the darkness.

    Thousands of years ago the world was shrouded by black, there was no light, no hope, just fear and oh how the darkness thrived. The people of the world lived in isolated pockets under a constant torment by the darkness. Chaos was in abundance and so it was for many moons. Over the years the darkness grew complement, the people had learnt to live with it, he was no longer an object of fear but a simple oppressor of the people and amidst the chaos the resilience of the human race shone through.

    It was then seven gods were raised above them, a shining beacon of hope that they all gathered around and for the first time they fought back. And they started to win. The seven gods assaulted the darkness and drove it back into the night until they had total dominance over they day. Alas as soon as night arrived the darkness would fight them back until the break of day, and then the gods would push forward – it was an endless cycle that neither could escape from so they made a deal, a pact.

    The darkness would have dominion of the night, and during those hours he would rule, but upon the dawn the gods would be allowed to protect and let the human race flourish. So the darkness paused and considered this, for it was tiring as well, and accepted the agreement and it was all parties were content for a few years at least.

    But no peace can last, it is merely a pause between the wars, and the gods wanted more for their master race so when the darkness was at its weakest they broke the pact and pushed back the darkness. Over the years it had lost its fear, which gave it its strength, and the gods had gained devotion, which gave them theirs and so as legion upon legion marched forth the darkness vanished from the world and absorbed by the gods, each now containing a mere hint of their former enemy.

    However before the darkness was all but gone it used up the last of its strength, creating a bond between him and his hidden priests, the Kazuak and upon them he bestowed the oath that when the time was right they would gain its release so it could punish the gods for theirbetrayal.

    Until then the world remained in everlasting lightness, the gods walking amongst their creations as guides and leaders, possessed with the knowledge they had banished the darkness for good…

    Azbuhal smiled, until today that is. The time was ready for the darkness to be released once more. For many years they had waited for this moment, and now the fourteen members of the Kazuak were gathered together under its general. This was the first time all had been presence together, for years they had been hidden as ordinary citizens but there was no hiding them together. The small power of darkness that had been bestowed upon them all was concentrated together and for the first time in years darkness shrouded a room.

    It would be another thousands of years before this chance would come along again, so they had to act. All seven gods were meeting together at the Pantheon of Light, built by their new race of humans, the Romans. The gods were still themselves the Greeks of old but they felt a new race was needed, and so with no power to oppose them they did just that. The meeting would be the first of its kind and would mean that the little bit of darkness in each god would be concentrated together much like it is in this room, albeit the Pantheon wouldn’t darken as the gods light would outshine any strands of darkness instantly, but that isn’t what they wanted. The Kazuak’s task was simple, they had to stab a dagger into each of the gods heart, two Kazuak’s for each god to make sure the job was done.

    How was this possible? Azbual had been watching and the gods were complacent, greedy – they wouldn’t expect an attack in their new home. Of course all the Kazuak’s would die, a fate upon anyone who touches a god, but their task would be fulfilled. By stabbing the heart of the god the darkness inside would be released, and if all was released at the same time, along with the darkness from within the Kazuak’s themselves then it would be able to return with all its strength, and bring darkness back first upon this Pantheon of Light, and then across the whole world.

    The gods would fight back, of that Azbual was sure, but people would fear what they don’t know, and no one alive today knows what it is t experience the darkness, the cold, the chaos and its power would thrive upon their fear, and the darkness will be strong enough to destroy them. All fourteen of them stood up and nodded, this was their time…


    Entrant Seventeen - Copperknickers II

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    A Dream by a Gravestone

    Foreword

    The Via Appia, or Appian Way, extends from the Southern gates of Rome into the beautiful Latin hills. It is the great paved highway leading from the Eternal City down to Southern Italy, the cities of Naples and Capua. It is one of the busiest roads in the Roman world, and at all times, day or night, it is bustling with traffic; wagons, carts and horses and donkeys. Yet, though it might seem a rather noisy and dusty environment for a graveyard, it is lined with thousands and thousands of graves, some huge towering edifices, others humble blocks. Most, however, are inscribed with an epitaph, in order that people might come from the road for a rest, and read about how the grave's occupants died, and imbibe whatever pearls of wisdom the deceased person wanted to impart.

    You, gentle reader, are such a weary traveller, who has lain down beside one of these stones and drifted off amongst the mossy slabs, joining for a short time the dead in their peaceful dreams.

    A Dream at the side of the road

    'Why do you hurry so, traveller?
    Come, sit down here, and rest your
    weary feet, that must be so sore
    from your journey. Perhaps you
    are a merchant, come to sell fine
    treasures from the Eastern provinces,
    or maybe you are a slave on some
    long and tiresome errand for your
    master, or perhaps you are a freeman,
    roaming abroad in search of adventure
    in the wilderness. Listen, if you will, to the
    story of my final journey; my joyful departure,
    valiant pride, and base betrayal.
    I was a proud Greek citizen,
    who came here on the short ride
    over the Adriatic not many years ago,
    to seek the violent glory of battle,
    and its shining prizes of silver,
    gold and women. I had nothing
    but a sack, my clothes, and my
    (not inconsiderable) skill as an
    orator, for I learned from youth
    the Athenian craft of rhetoric:
    how to sway the mind of even
    the stubborn slave owner or the
    fierce Gaul through words spun of silk.
    And so, confident in my self, it was not long,
    upon arriving on the green Italian
    shores, that I was shown to a
    dazzling, stunning girl, whose
    blonde hair fell like the sparkling
    waterfalls of Mount Helicon.
    She was the proud heiress of
    Roman greatness, the
    daughter of a rich nobleman,
    and wife of a mighty and famous
    general, commander of the 10th
    Legion. Her husband, absent
    on campaign from the city of Rome,
    saw no ill with laying at her feet all
    the spread of his great riches,
    to do with as she pleased, and
    indeed she was a generous soul,
    always willing to do a service to
    those whom might scratch her
    back in return. And that I did, for
    I was handsome in my prime, with
    black locks like ebony, and a voice
    deep and dark as the caves of Avernus.
    O, alas, how arrogant and foolish I was!
    I besought her for aid in finding
    work, and 'paid' her most freely
    in advance, and knew that if her
    husband should find out she would
    be dead. So I pushed beyond what
    was proper to ask for, thinking that
    this blackmail would secure me
    greater riches. But alas, he came
    home too early, and disovered
    us in the bedchamber, the heart
    of our deceit. And she cried rape,
    to save her skin, while my own was
    nearly flayed from my bones in
    the beating I was given: and indeed
    I did not live to see the blood stain
    the luxurious wooden floor.
    So there, traveller, you hear the cause
    of my death, and the crime which
    warranted it. And though you
    may think it deserved, surely
    you must have some pity, for
    this wretched man who, having
    been killed by vain lust and the
    base treachery of his greatest love,
    lies here beneath you in the earth.
    Now go, and if you pity not at all,
    at least learn this: love is blind,
    and deaf, and stupid, for more
    blows are dealt for women than for
    riches: but I knew not my place,
    a stranger in a foreign land, I
    myself decieved and sinned, and
    now the hoped-for land holds no
    potential treasure, only my shamed bones.'
    Reforged
    A Skyrim AAR

    Otousan

  10. #50
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    TotW 201 – The Merchant
    extravagance, quality, good, number, tax
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    [The link to the picture for this competition no longer works.]

    Winner – ImperialAquila
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Everlasting life, youth, and glory. Tales of a spring that lies hidden somewhere in the New World has compelled me to embark on this expedition. Myth, legend or truth, I cared not for greed and dreams of extravagance have blinded me. I was a merchant on the brink of bankruptcy and upon discovering some fragments of Ponce De Leon's journals, I decided to gamble what was left of my fortune to find this so-called Fountain of Youth.

    I set out at the head of the expedition with two ships: the Santa Maria and the San Mateo. Another ship the San Juan, would follow after the tax and tariff issues were resolved. The ships were laden with quality goods from Arabia and the Far East, and a number of paid Venetian and Portuguese mercenaries accompanied by a small contingent of conquistadors. Our journey was fraught with perils. I lost the San Mateo in a great storm and I had to deal with a mutiny on board the Santa Maria. After weeks of hardships we finally arrived and made port at the settlement of San Augustin, La Florida. The settlement was a small one but I decided to make it our base of operations. I began to reread Ponce De Leon's writings and consulted some of the local maps in an attempt to plot a course for our initial exploration. Isla de Bimini seemed to be the first place to look. At dawn, I hastily gathered up a few of my men and set out for the island.

    The exploration of Isla de Bimini gained nothing and was fruitless. Disappointed but not disheartened, I returned to San Augustin with hopes that the next one will be much more successful and with the arrival of the San Juan, I knew the expedition was far from over. That night I conversed with a native who heard stories of a magical spring somewhere in the swamps and knew someone who claimed to have seen it. Emboldened by what I was hearing, I decided to follow this lead for it was the only lead I had since Ponce De Leon. The next morning, I set out sometime at midday with thirty armed men and traveled further inland in search of the Fountain. Navigating the swamps was dangerous even with the help of a guide and I lost five men and a mule carrying supplies trying to traverse through it. We arrived at a spring but it turned out to be an ordinary one. The local tales were proven to be just tales and nothing more.

    After months of failed explorations and conflicts with some native tribes that resulted in the loss of many men, I was forced to conclude that the expedition was a wasted one and I decided to leave and return to Spain. The Fountain of Youth. Myth, legend, or truth? No one knows and if there ever was truth in it, I had a feeling that God never intended mortals to find it.

    Entrant 2 – William the Marshal
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The Merchant's Daughter - A Song

    The Merchant's coffers are full of gold,
    Cascades of wealth so fine to see,
    Yet better by far than metal so cold
    Are his daughter's eyes so bright and lively.

    As he dickers and haggles on every tax
    His daughter so lonely is wasting away,
    This merchant so fine is a parent so lax
    He may find her long gone on some bright autumn's day.

    O ye who sail far o'er the seas,
    Bringing costly goods across the brine,
    I'll wager ye've never seen aught so fair
    As the face of the Merchant's daughter fine!

    A quality rare in a woman so rich,
    The kindness you see when you look in her eye,
    I can't understand the reasoning which
    Makes her fond of such a poor sailor as I.

    'Tis not long now 'til I sail away,
    Borne by wind and by wave far from my love,
    Yet I shan't forget her, come what may,
    I'll still see her blue eyes in the blue sky above.

    O ye who sail far o'er the seas,
    Bringing costly goods ​across the brine,
    I'll wager ye've never seen aught so fair
    As the face of the Merchant's daughter fine!

    That merchant so bold, he numbers his coin,
    Dreams of extravagance filling his head,
    His daughter so beautiful soon I will join,
    Across the deep ocean he'll find we have fled.

    Her auburn hair it is wonderfully bright,
    But her father prefers the chink of his gold,
    She'll run off with me like a thief in the night,
    And her beauty will ever be mine to behold.

    O ye who sail far o'er the seas,
    Bringing costly goods ​across the brine,
    I'll wager ye've never seen aught so fair
    As the face of the Merchant's daughter fine!

    Entrant 3 – Merchant of Venice
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The Mistakes of a Merchant


    Francesco lay almost lifeless on the floor of his cell, his chest pressing hard against the cold, unforgiving stone. His eyes lay wide open, yet they gazed at nothing, almost as if they were not connected to his mind. He lay there, silently praying for a miracle he knew would never come, yet hoped would. Death lurked around the corner, waiting for him, the Devil next to him, waiting to take Francesco to his torture pits.


    A long, single ray of light shone into the cell, through the crudely constructed window, providing Francesco with his only warmth, yet this tiny speckle of warmth did nothing but magnify the coldness. He could still almost touch the gold in his hand, almost smell the sheer delight of him and his co-conspirators. He could still remember that feeling, that thought that nothing could be better.


    How wrong they were. How wrong they were to doubt the Republic, to doubt its ability to track down frauds. How wrong they were to think that they could live in the extravagance reserved for kings, how wrong they were to let their greed and lust for power take over. They hoped they had covered their tracks, hid their profits to escape the taxes.


    But the council always found out. A co-conspirator would sell out or a poor beggar would over hear and earn himself a nice pile of cash. To Francesco, it mattered little how they found out, all that he knew was that they had and that was that.


    And so, Francesco lay on the cold, damp floor of his prison cell, the knowledge that his fate was sealed imprinted firmly in his brain. His wife would weep, his children even more so, his friends would shout and yell, yet nothing could change his fate. In his pursuit of wealth and money, he had fallen at the last gauntlet, failed the last test. He swore he had got the numbers right, he was sure the bribes had all been paid. It was his punishment though, it was his punishment for relying on the qualities of men who had been so easily bribed in the first place. Men, who had surely been the first target for the authorities.


    In retrospect, he had lived a good life, albeit cut too short. His one and only wish was that it would be quick, painless and hopefully bloodless, more so for his family than for himself. He had never meant to involve them, yet he had, and they would pay the price of his greed. He may of been the one who was facing death, yet it would be them who would feel the greater impact. He would be remembered as the greedy merchant, the man who had ruined his family, ruined his reputation. It could be worse.


    TotW 202 – Megas Alexandros
    solidify, expansion, warrior, poison, heroic

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Winner - ImperialAquila
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    How could I describe how mighty he was? I could use up all the words of many different languages to describe the Warrior-King who, at such a young age, became leader of the mightiest and largest empire in the known world but it still won't do him enough justice. I've been asked to regale tales about him and for many years I refused to do so.

    But now, I give up trying to dissuade you and I shall tell you all that I know.

    Let's see... Let me begin with how he solidified his rule over Hellas. After the death of Philip II, his father, Alexandros went North to consolidate his position and the expansion of his new kingdom. After a brutal campaign against the Northern barbarian tribes, news started to spread. Alexandros was dead they say and with this terrible news, the Hellenes to the South rebelled. Of course the news was proven false when Alexandros returned and I must say that when he found out about the rebellion, his anger was terrible to behold. He mercilessly sacked Thebes and many were put to the sword. I must tell you that he was a passionate, kind and merciful man but rouse his temper, he becomes a beast of fury and wrath. With the sacking of Thebes, the other City-States surrendered and accepted his Hegemony over all of Hellas.

    With Hellas and the Hellenes united, he now began to formulate a plan to fulfill his father's dream of conquering Persia. I was there at Issus, Granicus, Tyre, and Gaugamela. I could still remembered it clearly as though it was only yesterday. I'll tell you of Gaugamela. The Persians, more than two hundred thousand strong against us, who were only less than a fifty thousand. I remember how heroic he was as he charged into the Persian lines, breaking their cohesion and morale, causing Darius and a number of his men to flee the field of battle. We were victorious and it was a day worth remembering.

    The Persian Empire was finally brought to its knees but Alexandros didn't stop there. He was determined to catch Darius and end any opposition to his rule. The chase sent us further East into unknown lands until we finally caught up to him. We found him dead. Betrayed and murdered by his generals. We traveled and explored the barbarian lands East of Persia. Sogdia, and Baktria. It was in these lands that Alexandros found a bride. A barbarian woman. This caused a stir among us but most of us kept our own counsel.

    After the campaigns in India we had enough and we conspired among ourselves. We killed him with a strong poison and paid the physicians to lie about his cause of death. Over the years I came to regret it. His premature death brought us to ruin.

    As I look back, I finally saw who he truly was. A man of passion, vision and great achievements. A god in all but name.

    Entrant 2
    – Isabella d'Este
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 





    Alexandros' By Seleucus






    Seleucus: Antiochus my son, I'll tell you about Alexander now, i've become an old man. I'll tell you about his heroic campaigns in Persia,
    His attacks in india, his Father Philip II, The time has come for you to continue the legacy of Alexander.


    Antiochus: Tell me, Did he became a titan?


    Seleucus: Titan...... The gods all laugh with you when you become to mighty, They take everything from you what you achieved..........


    Seleucus: He was born from Philip who led his birthplace from a backward place to position of Hegemon in Hellas, Philip II was a good man, He reformed his armies, he solidified Hellas, he laid the groundwork for alexander and his conquets, planned an invasion for Persia but got murdered before he could achieve that.


    Seleucus: Poor philip, After his death Alexander became king, all of what Philip achieved was in big danger when the greek cities wanted to become independent again, But this my son is where he showed his Talent, When he heard about this he gathered his army who Philip left professional trained then he crossed all of hellas, put the rebelious states back under control and sacked Thebes as sign for those who wanted to rebel again.


    Antiochus: Is it Thebes that Cassander rebuilt?


    Seleucus: Yes son......., Then he expanded his empire to the danube where he defeated the celts , Then he took the plan of his father about Persia, After liberating several cities in Asia he then was for the first time confronted with an persian army which he routed easily, he did not only behaved his as a good planner but as a warrior for his soldiers
    Then he captured Halicarnassus where Memnon of Rhodos fled to, Captured all of asia ,defeated the Persian King in issus and sacked gaza. In Egypt he was crowned Pharao. Then he created the Famous city of Alexandria were its believed his body is buried. He then marched to Gaugamela were the persians gathered their big army........


    Seleucus: ..... It was madness, with barely 20000 warriors of we defeated his army of 250000 barbarians, Then he marched in upper Persia, burned persepolis as a sign of his conquests, he then followed Darius in the mountains where he found him Poisoned by Bessus who Alexander then executed.


    Antiochus: And then he crossed the Hindu Kush?


    Seleucus: India...... We crossed the mountains, fought monkey tribes and their king Porus, then Alexander wanted to reach the Gagnes but his army who was tired of the war refused to do so,
    Alexander wisely deceided to go home and then he crossed the dessert of gedrosia, its there were his army suffered from attrition,when Alexander finally reached babylon he made new war plans but he never could fullfill his plans because.....


    Seleucus:.............. Because its believed he got poisoned by Cassander, At first we couldn't believe the death message but then we saw his dead body, we all became mad...


    Seleucus: And this my son is who Alexander was 'The greatest of them all'

    Entrant 3 – Prince Regent George
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    ***************************************


    -I, Mardontes, elected lord of Damghan, have gathered you, sage people of Damghan, to discuss the recent events in Media. As you already know, Baryaxes the Median, has revolted against the rule of the King of the Kings, Alexander the Great, himself! Today, Baryaxes has sent us one of his representatives, the noble Mascames, to inform as about the details of the aforementioned revolt, so you may speak, sage Mascames.

    -Thank you, my lord, but, to begin with, the heroic Baryaxes declared a true, national revolution against the tyrannical warrior of the West and the local traitor, Atropates, not just a neglectable revolt. We, the brave rebels, encourage the rebels to react against the Greek chauvinism and to restore the Iran to its previous, glorious majesty and finacial prosperity!

    -Ha! We heard a lot of your ridiculous manifesto! I, the great magnate Kranaspes, ruler of countless hectares of fertile land, urge you people not to listen to his infinite bubbling. Alexander the Great protected our interests, respected our tradition and solidified the crippling Persian Empire under Darius Codomannus.

    -Oh, I see. Alexander the Macedon now became Alexander the Great and Darius,Shahanshah and Pharaoh of Egypt has been downgraded to Codomannus. What a filthy traitor of your own people you are, Kranaspes!

    -Stop the rhetoric, Mardontes! Your father was a simple cavalry officer and you dare to call me a traitor? I and the peaceful people of Damghan are appalled by your audacity.

    -That's what I am talking about. Kranaspes and his fellow landlords don't give a penny about the people, but, arbitrarily, they claim they are talking on behalf of them. They only care about their individual, financial interests. Alexander's expansion never harmed them, since he took special care about not changing the social status quo. That's why they didn't die defending their Shahanshah and nation, but, instead they immediately declared their allegiance with Alexander, despite the thousands of dead Iranians. Remember Mazaeus, who betrayed his King in order to be appointed satrap of Babylon!

    -Nonsense! The people are classified by their birthplace andc consequently, the population of Damhgan has the same, peaceful interests.

    -No, your despicable kind will not keep exploiting the lower classes under the pretext of a common homeland. We, the revolutionaries, under the leadership of Baryaxes, promise deletion of debts, redistribution of land and equality! I repeat: deletion of debts, redistribution of land and equality! No more will you be exploited by the bloodthirsty tyrant, Alexander, and his cooperators!

    -Your word, you atheist and anarchist scumbag, is poison to the ears of the common people, who just desire the long-awaited serenity together with the mighty Alexander.

    -Common people, eh? You are worse than a sadistic leech, you malev...

    -Gentlemen, please! Let's try to preserve the polite tone, for Zoroaster's sake! I think that you have already expressed your arguments, so it's time for the people to vote.

    -I agree with Mardontes, let the people vote.

    -Me, too. Decide proud Iranians, decide...

    Entrant 4 – William the Marshal
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Translation of an inscription found on a Breton stele

    There was at that time a prince who was renowned for his heroic deeds against the Franks during their wars of expansion; a great soldier, young, strong and fair of face, so that he was always very haughty and considered himself the greatest of the nobles of that land. And it came to pass that one night he rode in the forest with his warriors and he saw the figure of an old man hooded and cloaked which he took to be another of the Breton lords, with whom he had an enmity bitter as poison. Seeing this gaunt figure as he rode laughing through the woods, he reined in his horse to have speech with him. And, suddenly, as the young prince drew breath for a taunt, a stag, black as night and large as a stallion, leapt across the path. The prince shouted to the bent figure, "Old man! If you catch that stag before I, my house will ever pledge itself to your service!" And, having so spoken, he turned to follow the great stag.

    The prince rode recklessly through the dark forest, laughing as his steed's sides heaved and its mouth foamed. And his friends and retainers, all those who followed him, fell behind as their horses foundered or fell in the shadows of the trees; uncaring, the prince rode on, his horse's footing sure, its speed unchecked. But slowly, the prince grew uneasy. The shouts of his friends grew faint as he galloped through the night, and the light of their torches faded to nothing, and still he followed unerringly the trail. The forest shades clustered thickly about him; he could see nothing but the beast's spoor, but he rode on. The air seemed to solidify into ice, the moon vanished behind the trees above, and still he rode on. He could hear the panicked breathing of the black stag over that of his horse. He spurred his dying steed - and burst suddenly into a clearing, lit by the moon, at the instant that the stag screamed and fell. The prince halted to see the stag's blood, black in the pale moonlight, flooding the ground of the clearing. It had been brought down by a scythe in the hands of the cloaked figure, which stepped forward and removed its hood. Gasping in shock, the prince saw not the face of his rival but -

    (The next sentences appear to have been purposely erased)

    The prince's friends saw him but once more, that same night, but he was greatly changed. His hair was stark white and he showed not the haughty demeanour which had been his wont, but hung his head and spoke not. And his friends spoke of him as one who was dead, and he was seen no longer in that land. But others whispered that he had become ankou, that he rode now at the right hand of Death, doing ever his bidding...

    Entrant 5 – Merchant of Venice
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    More than just a game

    “My lord, your units are routing!” Yelled the battle advisor, his phony Roman accent echoing throughout Alex’s dark, unlit bedroom. The only light provided was from the streetlights outside or the computer screen, which lit up Alex’s face with an array of colours.


    “Hold your ground you cowardly bastards!” Replied Alex, despite the fact that he was now screaming at a computer. “Noooooo!” He finally screamed as his last unit gave way to the enemy. His scream lasted well after the ominous defeat window slowly faded into the loading screen, the cries of men as they were decapitated or trampled by chariots replaced by the soothing campaign music. He slumped back into his chair, his hands firmly planted on the top of his hand in frustration, a long sigh releasing itself from his mouth. The heart-pumping exhilaration of the battle was now replaced by the frustration of defeat. He stared blankly at the screen as yet another province fell, his chances of replicating Alexander the Great, his namesake, slowly becoming slimmer. He was now left with only Greece and his capital in Macedonia, the Persian forces marching with both speed and efficiency, his own armies and towns falling like dominoes.


    His only chance was to make one last stand, his own Thermopylae. He would have to meet his foe, sarissa and hoplon in hand, a wall of pikes his only defense. And so, he set to work, clicking on recruitment menus like a crazed man. Every turn ending brought him closer to his fate, though whether his fate involved victory or defeat even he was unsure.


    A few hours later


    “Here men is where you make your stand, where you fight for your families, for your homeland and for your freedom! Centuries later, great poets in the mould of Homer will look upon this battle and recite your heroic stand and how it defined a war. Ready your sarissa, fasten your helmets and STAND YOUR GROUND!” Ordered Alex, the excitement and exhilaration of battle rushing through his veins like poison. It would of been a great speech, something truly inspirational, if only he wasn’t berating a collection of computer animated, virtual warriors who would of had no idea what hope, despair, bravery or desperation even was. A feeling of nervousness swept of Alex, the consequences of defeat flashing before his eyes. Hours upon hours had been poured into this campaign and they were not about to be wasted. And so, as he clicked the start button, as the battle music played, Alex readied himself for the closest thing he would get to a battle.


    “Who’s the boss? I’m da boss!” Screamed Alex, the battle won, the enemy slain. Expansion was now possible, the time for solidifying borders over. He would follow in Alexander’s footsteps, create an empire. Actually, that sounded like a good title for an AAR, thought Alex. “In Alexander’s footsteps. Hmmm.....I like it.



    TotW 203 – Black Flag
    pirate, captain, flintlock, popular, sea

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Winner
    – Rex Anglorvm
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Black Flag


    A sea of charm, or so I thought she was, until it became clear that she was not a force of nature, no storm, typhoon or tsunami was she. Nor was she an ocean becalmed or a silent sedate lake to be delved; nor even was she a sunlit tropical lagoon, even though there were in fact a multiplicity of monsters lurking within her deep hidden depths, all surreptitiously lying below the first few inviting meters of enticing sunlit warmed waters, the waters that were her flesh and bone, natural intelligence and exquisite beauty.

    No to me, but for an instance, she was merely a pirate in human form,sent to rob me of my senses, and more importantly my heart. No, more importantly, sent to steal me of myself, my very essence, my being.


    But then on further reflection, I did her a disservice. She was no mere pirate, no deck scrubber, crows nest squatter or bilge cleaner.

    She was the captain, for she steered me like a vessel, she turned the wheel on my life to take me into directions that I had never explored before, or had never wanted to explore before with captains previous. She was my captain.

    My soul was spun into a dozen deadly encounters with all things devious, devilish, dastardly and despotic.


    In one encounter I had placed a flintlock pistol against the head of a miscreant who she claimed had slighted her, him having the temerity to let his eyes wander too much over my captain’s shapely countenance.


    I had pulled the trigger of my weapon with as little remorse as a man would stamp on an insect, and in a blinding flash of black smoking powder; the man’s head had exploded to leave me covered in blood, gore and grey brain matter.

    The captain had blessed me with a beatific smile for this service that caused my heart to miss several heartbeats, my breath was held dizzyingly, until I could hear the blood roaring in my ears and I thought I would pass forever from this world in a state of unnatural bliss.

    But such as I could never hope to hold such a beauty for long, especially when a man finds that beauty perhaps is more than skin deep, just as every kindly mother’s advice to her children would suggest.

    I found this to ever be the case, my mean frame, ill-formed features and kindly demeanor ran counter to her fine physicality, fine delicate features and coal-black heart.

    Soon a man too popular, too hearty, too handsome, too everything came on our horizon, and he in turn made a vessel of my captain, a ship to be explored, and then in time wantonly abandoned on a rotting slipway.

    Still the final pleasure is mine, for both my captain and her captain lie at the bottom of the ocean floor, held in Neptune’s embrace, planks after all do have there uses.

    Entrant 2 – William the Marshal
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Twenty buccaneers leveled their flintlocks at a row of kneeling prisoners. A ferocious giant with a wooden arm stumped about in front of them, shouting.
    "Avast, yew scum! Prepare ta have yer fates decided by the great pirate, Captain Nigel Smith-Smythe-Smith hisself!"
    A step sounded on the deck as, to terrified gasps from the men (and sighs from the ladies), the dreaded sea-raider known as Lavender Nigel appeared. This grim figure was wearing a black frock-coat, fine riding-boots, a silk waistcoat, and an admiral's hat. His one-armed first mate saluted, almost knocking himself out, and said "Them prisoners yew was wantin', Cap'n sir. How shall we kill'em?"
    Nigel blinked with an air of surprise and said mildly, "I say old chap, do wait a moment. I have some questions, dont'cher know."
    The mate saluted again, then turned to the prisoners and roared "Listen up! The Cap'n 'as some questions 'fore we toss ya over tha side, yew slab-sided barnacle-suckers!"
    Lavender Nigel seemed aghast at the mate's language, but merely turned to the prisoners, inquiring, "I say, could any of you chaps tell me if you have any tea? Demmed nuisance, I know, but I seem to have run out, what?"
    The mate screamed, "Did yew lubbers 'ear that? The cap'n wants to know if'n yew got TEA, yew Froggy basterds! Arrrrrrrrrrr!"
    Nigel reproved, "That will do, Mr Silver," before looking inquiringly at the prisoners. "Tea? Anyone?" Receiving no response, he shook his head regretfully. "Demmed Frenchies wouldn't know Assam from Ceylon, I suppose. Very well, Mr Silver, you may throw them over the side, old boy."
    Silver screamed, "YARRRRRRR! TOSS THEM FROGGIES OVER, ME HEARTIES!" and the pirates began flinging their prisoners into the water. Suddenly, one of the Frenchmen pulled loose, snatched a cutlass and stabbed at Nigel desperately. But Lavender Nigel was the greatest fighter in 3.5 seas, and he easily dodged, receiving only a slight tear to his frock-coat. Seeing this tear, Nigel's face grew stony. His eyes became dark with an uncontrollable rage. As silence fell across the deck, pirates and prisoners alike struck with terror, Lavender Nigel said to the mate, "Mr Silver, old lad, would you kindly take this utter cad and do something unspeakably violent to him? There's a good chap."
    Silver, grinning evilly, sprang into action. Bellowing "YAAARRRRRRRRRR!" like an avenging, piratey angel, he grabbed the French sailor by the unmentionables and, brandishing a spoon, dragged him belowdecks, where the tortured shrieks of the unfortunate blighter could be heard for what seemed an eternity, but was more like ten seconds. Then came a splash, followed by Silver's contented whistling. Nigel simply glared.
    "Demmed Froggy's ruined my coat. I shall have to go get it repaired on Savile Row, and it's always ever so dull when some demmed meddler tries hanging me for piracy. Demmed shame. No demmed tea, either. Blast."
    Such was Lavender Nigel Smith-Smythe-Smith, greatest pirate of his age, first winner (by popular acclaim) of ARRRRR! Monthly's Best-Dressed Pirate Award.

    Entrant 3 – Prince Regent George
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    ***********************************************************************************************
    Lettre de Marque




    French Empire


    In the name of His Imperial and Royal Majesty Napoleon I, by the Grace of God and the Constitutions of the Republic, Emperor of the French, King of Italy, Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine, Mediator of the Helvetic Confederation, the present Lettre de Marque is issued. According to it, Monsieur Frédéric de Noilleau, commonly known as "The two-flintlock Marquis" and captain of the vessel called "Le Grand Turc", is appointed official corsair of the Imperial Crown.


    More precisely, based on the terms of services, concerning the privateers working for the interests of the Empire of the French, he, Monsieur Frédéric de Noilleau, ought to follow the rules below:

    1. Your legal activities are limited to the Caribbean Sea, as she is been defined by Mexico and Central America to the west and southwest, to the north by the Greater Antilles, to the east by the Lesser Antilles, and to the south by South America. If, for whatever the reason, "Le Grand Turc" expands her activities outside of the aforementioned naval region, the Empire of French is no more responsible for her and, therefore, she may be considered as a vessel belonging to an outlaw pirate, by any possible captors of her.



    2. You are only authorized to act against vessels under a black flag, or with the colors of the Kingdom of Portugal and Algarves, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, of the Austrian Empire, of the Viceroyalties of Peru and New Spain and of the Bourbon pretenders to the Spanish Throne. By any means necessary, you must avoid engagement with a vessel, belonging to another faction. Otherwise, your actions will become unacceptable for the Empire of French and you will be considered as a pirate.


    3. When you capture an enemy vessel, you should treat the captives with respect, especially the injured ones, no matter their level of resistance, during the assault. Moreover, when you have gathered enough loot, you may give it to the nearest, french authorities, as soon as possible. Of course, you will be rewarded generously, for your military efforts.


    As long as you respect the rules mentioned above, rest assured that the Empire of France will keep you under Her protection, while she will morally and materially support your naval operations. However, if the opposite happens, you should be ready for severe, legal consequences, such as admiralty courts, whose jurisdictions cover any possible, maritime offense.

    Commissioner of corsairs in the Caribbean Sea, Hubert de Graillon
    Minister of the Navy and the Colonies, Denis Decrès*



    20th of November, 1811

    Ministry of the Navy and the Colonies

    *Note: Denis Decrès was indeed a popular Ministry of Navy, during the Napoleonic Period (1801-1814). He is granted the reorganisation of the French Naval Forces after the disastrous battle of Trafalgar.

    Entrant 4 – General Retreat
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Hard choices on the high seas

    “Our terms are most fair, I think you’ll agree
    Comply with the lot and we’ll set you off free.”
    The prisoner replied, quivering with terror or rage
    Amply demonstrating they weren't on the same page.
    “Say what you will but you’re a barbarous pirate
    And the king you serve is a despotic tyrant!
    You’ll have no assistance or information from me
    So you can take your offer to the bottom of the sea!”

    The captain did sigh and then give a short laugh
    For the Frenchman had clearly chosen his path.
    “I prefer privateer, but a pirate? You’re right!
    However there doesn't appear to be a jury in sight,
    So your fate rests with me, you ungrateful scrote
    And if you don’t play along, I’ll cut your throat.”
    The crew set about sharpening their blades
    Causing the captive’s resolve to rapidly fade.

    “Now then, lets not be hasty,” he added in terror
    “I’m sure there’s some way we can clear up this error!”
    The dread captain frowned at the change of volition
    And made alarming him greatly his ulterior mission.
    “I’m not doing this to be popular or for love of thy neighbour!
    So how will you die – flintlock or sabre?
    Those are your choices, unless you give me the map,
    Which will result in you walking away with naught but a slap.”

    Gibbering and howling with anguish and woe
    The forlorn Frenchman paced to-and-fro.
    Considering the threat laid down on his life,
    It seemed fate had dealt him a hand full of strife.
    The least he could expect on returning to home
    Would be a gibbet for the crows to pick through his bones.
    Seeing no route out, he made up his mind
    Turning his coat on all of his kind.

    “The place that you desire, there are now no maps,
    They are under the waves and feeding the crabs!”
    The crew then roared in great consternation
    Until the captive continued his trembling oration.
    “But all is not lost – I can still take you there
    For a place on your ship and a slice of the share.”
    To this the captain did hurriedly agree,
    While crossing his fingers where no-one could see.

    Entrant 5 – Merchant of Venice
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Two Captains

    The captain ran his soft fingers across the smooth surface of the coin, tracing the outline of his monarch’s head with his nails. The shiny gold surface of the coin reflected even the faintest bit of light allowed for it by the lamp, as if the coin was showing off its own worth. Below him, waves gently rocked his ship, El Palacio Flotante, fighting with the wind over which direction the ship would head. Towards the other end of the ship, drunken revelry filled the humid air, the effect of alcohol on his men evident. Occasionally, the odd gunshot would pierce the revelry, bringing it to a sudden stand still, only for the silence to be filled yet again with laughter and rather obnoxious yelling. Yet, pirates were lurking in the distance.


    They were silent.


    Undetectable.


    They moved not against the waves but with them, the sound of crushing waves almost nullified. They crashed into El Palacio Flotante with a slight bump, unnoticeable to even the captain, though he was also on the brink of intoxication after a bit too many glasses of some of the Caribbean’s finest rum. Their footsteps were as quiet as a cat’s, the old wooden planks not daring to creak as they dashed across the top deck. Only small yelps of pain, stopped as soon as they had escaped the mouth of the victim, gave away any evidence of their presence. Yet, that was all that was needed.


    The cats had roamed into the lion’s den and now the lion was awake. Within minutes, the guards were on to them, the sound of gunshot ringing across the ship, bouncing from one wooden plank to another. The pirates responded, drawing out their own flintlock pistol,s some even sporting two or more, the steel barrels of the pistols glinting in the moonlight, hungry for death. Smoke wafted out of the barrels and drifted across the deck, giving the assailants yet another advantage. Soon, the deck was painted red with the blood of both guards and pirates, bodies of both sides almost indistinguishable from each other.


    Only two men were left standing. Two captains. Two veterans of the high seas. Two men with bloodstained swords and hungry pistols.


    Two men and a hell of a lot of treasure.


    The pirate lunged at the other captain, blade high, glinting in the moonlight, thirsty for blood. As elegantly as a dance, the other captain evaded and blocked his every thrust, the two men circling each other like the sharks below. Eventually, the other captain began his own assaults, though his attacks were a tad bit less beautiful than his parries. The two men were fully focused on each other, the rest of the world blocked out.


    And then it hit them, the mightiest of whales. It’s deep, melancholy song traveling through the water as it slammed into the ship. And then either captain saw nothing but the emerald blue of the sea.



    TotW 204 – Who's a Fool?
    stammer, emperor, power, fool, blood
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Winner – Dance
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    There was an odd stammer in his demeanor. As relatively calm and peaceable as he seemed, this day was certainly different. It was noticed, from his initial speech to Caesar, in an attempt to defend his dubious deeds and intentions. It was peculiar indeed, a man of his naturally charismatic personality, at which his previous orating has drawn headaches in Forum. Among the most intellectual of senators, it was certainly an odd sight and one must wonder, why?

    The benevolent emperor gave him a fair hearing to proclaim his innocence and explain his part in the plot, of which many of the conspirators were put down without even a trial. But the dastardly Publius Rutilius Lupus was a loss for words, which, seemed to the court as proof of guilt, as the whispers were low, but condemning. This only fueled the anger in Caesar's eyes, as his lion-like, tight-skinned jawline clinched, a telltale sign of a flaring anger within him. He knew the man was guilty, but owed it to a respected Plebeian to give him a fair hearing, despite the quiet travesty of an overlooked trial.

    Caesar's power was unrivaled in the known world, despite this assassination attempt, which only emboldened the legendary status of the greatest of Caesar's. His Praetorian were as loyal as would be expected of them, by the royal family. His firm grasp over his personal guard was the key to the longevity of not just his life, but his reign, as well. He demonstrated this well by his unending aura. An aura that radiated the greatness of his status. He had no fear, and he proved this in the Colosseum, where he bested the most ferocious of beasts and the greatest of warriors.

    With his established greatness, none, not even the cowardly Senate could deny his divine status. Dozens were put to the sword by this point, with the chief conspirator remaining. How could one be such a fool as to believe that he could organize the coldblooded murder of as divine a ruler as the great Commodus? Only a fool, as that is clearly certain.

    The city was in shambles. The people feared for the worst. They feared for reprisal from the gods, because of the actions of a select few. To murder a god is the penultimate crime. The only justice that can be served in such an instance is the blood of the devilish who tried. Caesar's mercy has limits, yet his divinity is eternal.


    Titus Revo, Imperial Scribe


    "No, no. It is too self-gratifying. Less of my obviously great accomplishments, and more of the devilish crime that was attempted, Titus."

    "Yes, Caesar," said a humbled Titus.

    "Good. There are plenty of scrolls and inscriptions of my great accomplishments. However, Titus, do not deviate from ensuring my benevolence is mentioned," said Caesar with a smile.


    Entrant 2 – William the Marshal
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    From: Li Zhou, War Correspondent, Aguirre Quadrant
    To: Editor, Imperial Sun-Messenger

    The town of Sarawak is largely rubble; this former mining hub on Isis's third moon was the centre of fierce fighting between rebels and Colonial soldiers until both sides abandoned it. I am guided to the nearby rebel encampment by two soldiers whose first act is to blindfold me. "We don't want you revealing our position," they stammer awkwardly, taking my arms and carefully walking me down a winding series of tunnels. When my blindfold is removed, I see a valley, crowded with tents and ramshackle buildings, swarming with fighters. Looking around as we enter the camp, I see that most of these rebels are young - the average seems about nineteen, although I see some who appear younger. These soldiers are tired but alert; many wear rough bandages stained with blood. Most of the rebels I see are poorly equipped; the vast majority clutch old-fashioned Gauss rifles, probably imported from Free State space; a few sport flashy new particle weapons looted from the corpses of Colonial Administration soldiers. The only evidence of heavy weapons I can see are a few rickety Gauss mortars and one missile launcher, which, I am informed, is reserved for repelling air raids. Entering the centre of the camp, I see a large poster with a portrait of Artjom Sakharov, the marine corporal from Sobek whose mutiny began the revolt in the Cataract System. Even here, three planets away, Sakharov is a symbol of bravery to his comrades. "We hear the Administration claims to have him in custody," one soldier (who identifies himself only as Khaled) tells me. "Who do they think they're fooling? We know the truth. They killed him and don't want to admit it." As rebel soldiers pass the poster of "Brother Artjom", they bow reverently towards it. Occasionally, a crowd will assemble before it to hear an officer deliver orders, news, or an inspiring speech. I hear one commander, Captain Nguyen, announce that the Emperor's Court has refused the Cataract Colonial Administration's request for military assistance, pending an investigation into alleged human rights violations by Colonial bureaucrats and soldiers. This hopeful news raises a cheer from the ragged fighters: "The Emperor! Huihuang Tianzi!" They still hope that the Imperial Government will take their side against the Colonial Administration, as it did in the Acheron System ten years ago. Suddenly, there is a screaming from overhead. The rebels scatter as the remaining gunships of the Cataract Colonial Air Force swoop in, strafing the camp. I am dragged belowground to a cavern, a former mineshaft, dimly lit by a few floodlamps that flicker occasionally as the bombardment disrupts their power supply. I hear shouting from overhead, followed by hissing and explosions as the rebels open fire with their missiles. Even hunkered underground, the rebel fighters are optimistic: "Of course I believe we can win," says Khaled. "We fight for our families, our homes. What are the Colonials fighting for? Their masters' wallets?"

    Entrant 3 – Isabella d'Este
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    You have proven your value once again Antiochus.........







    Blood has fallen by the ptolmaics this night, a night of revenge and honour! The enemy general is a fool........ Who dares to oppose me?


    Don't underestimate the enemy son..... i got myself caught with that.......when i though the battle was won at Raphia


    Antiochus your contributions are many and deserved... I think its time to nominate you as future emperor of the Seleucid empire before i start my campaigns in the west............


    My king when does a man receives more honor in his life when he is asked to lead an empire of glory?


    Its not a honor to lead a empire, in the end it will all fall down once. Its not a matter to lead an empire to glory but to extend its years Antiochus, we can't postphone the end we just can delay it to grant ourself a place in the history books.


    Antiochus i give you full power of the armies who will remain here to secure the borders with agressive nations. And i advise you to check the growing power of the council, they're corrupt Antiochus.......... Don't trust anyone, i say this again Don't trust anyone. I only exclude Amyntas the stammer of out of a conspiracy.


    Amyntas is born the same day as me, he would never do something immoral. We are like achilles and Patrocles to eachother.


    And my son i also trust you the future diplomacy talks with the Ptolmaics, soon they will confirm themself as the defeated nation.


    But i'd like to advise you not to focus you on the military aspect of life, A life focused on singing,dancing,sporting is most beautiful aspect that life can offer you, take that chance because before you know you died for just a dying empire.


    So my king i should focus on the civil aspect of life?


    There is nothing better then to be loved by the people, Its not the marble of the council what deceides about us but the people, You must always remember this for the rest of your life : The People are the actual rules of our areas.


    Now come here my son and let us toast for a final time before we join us with victorious soldiers.

    Entrant 4 – Prince Regent George
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    ***********************************************************************
    Actors:

    Praetorian Satistardus (German origin)

    Praetorian Mingoenus (British origin)

    Emperor Claudius



    -...and then, I cut her neck, painting the wall with her bloody blood and making her visit her infant*, in the Infernus!

    -OMM (Oh, My Mithra)! You da master Satistardus!

    -I know, man! I mean what's better than massacring toddlers and young ladies! I mean, they scream, begging fo...

    -Am I delusional or do this pair of slippers tremble?

    -Excellent, more butchering! Move the bloody curtain. I want to see my victim, before I slaughter him!

    -H-h-helo, g-gentl-tl-men, h-how d-do you d-do?

    -Perfect! Why do you stammer like a dyslexic sheep? I want to understand my future preys!

    -W-wel-ll, I am a b-bit sc-car-red, n-not t-to mention-on I c-can't sp-p-peak an-nyw-way. P-please, d-don't k-kill me, d-dear g-gent-ntlemen; I w-will rew-ward you!

    -Damn it! I only got the word "reward". How can you stop stammering?

    -By singing, perhaps?

    -I'll g-give it-t a t-try...

    Don't kill me, and you get a reward!

    Trust me, I give you my word!

    -Now, I am in an excellent mood,

    and trust me, this really good!
    We just killed the whole family,
    even the adorable Emily!

    -Hey! Why do you siiing?
    You aren't like this deformed piiiig!
    -Because, I just want to dooo!

    You act like this, toooo!

    -Damn it, you are correct!

    I suppose we should blame, this wreck!

    -Don't blame me, make me your chief!

    That would be a great relief!

    Do make me a Senaaator

    and I'll make you a Quaeaestor!

    Do make me an Empeeeror,
    and I'll make you a Praeeetor!
    -He, lad,
    be glad,
    that I'm not mad!

    So, your offer sounds delicious!

    How can I serve you, my precious?

    Should we burn the Senate,
    massacre the Triumvirate
    or just assassinate
    everyboooody?


    -Just get me to the bank,

    in order to deal with the gang,

    because there is no honey
    without any moooney!
    -Oh, dear,
    have no fear,
    the preatorians are here!

    Consider it done!

    There will be no man

    resiiiistiiing.

    -So, let us go,

    we're running low
    of tiiiiime.

    -So, our way to power begiiins,

    I can't wait telling Mrs Migiiins!

    -That shrew! Are you kidding?

    Have you lost any thinking?
    -Do you dare to talk?

    Last time, you loved a rock!

    -Don't moan,

    I don't love the stone,

    but I'm not alone.

    Now, I have an affair with a cow,
    it's the second in a row.
    Who's the fool, nooooow?


    Notes:
    1. After Cassius Chaerea assasinated Caligula, the conspirators also murdered his wife, Milonia Caesonia, and their daughter, Julia Drusilla.
    2. Mrs Miggins is a character from the third season of the "Blackadder" series.

    Entrant 5 – Merchant of Venice
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Director’s Cut

    “No, no, no!” Yelled Tom Catsi, the famous director and in charge of the new Caligula play, his voice echoing throughout the theatre.


    “Your meant to be Caligula, the fool emperor, the crazy man with way too much power, in charge of one of history’s biggest empires.You look and sound like a vegetable. A boring vegetable as well!” Red faced, the actor, Jorge Tramponi, escaped back into his script, almost as if he was hiding from the monster. ‘Get famous’ they said, ‘loads of fun’ they said, ‘get yelled at by a short-tempered director’ they did not say.


    “And you senator!”Continued Tom, pointing quite rudely at one of the men clad in a toga. “Yes you! Get rid of the stammer. News flash-nobody cares about your problem. Get rid of it or get packing!” The senator’s face turned a dark red, not unlike the colour of blood, not of embarrassment but rather of anger, his words luckily held back by his stammer. Tom turned to his PA.


    “You get me a coffee. Double shot, skim soy milk, loads of sugar, honey, cinnamon and a dragon, no, an eagle on the top. Got that?Good. No eagle, no job.” The PA bolted out of sight, busily pondering how to get an eagle on top of a coffee. ‘Good pay’ they said, ‘chance to learn about directing’ they said, ‘making an eagle coffee’ they did not say.


    “Now people.”Tom clapped his hands together. “Take it from the top. Do not fail to impress.” The actors all rushed into their various positions, their desire to escape Tom’s wrath or to escape Tom himself unclear.


    “Senators, senators.” Began Jorge, in the exaggerated and crazed manner of Caligula. “I wish to inform you all of the appointment of my horse, Incitatus, to the position of consul of the senate.” Jorge began to laugh like a lunatic, while the groans and shouts of disagreement from the senators could be heard in the background.


    Tom, only slightly impressed, waved his hands to single the end. “Okay people, that’s a wrap. Maybe you’ll be better tomorrow.



    TotW 205 – End of an Era
    plunder, screams, havoc, corpse, ruin
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    [The link to the picture for this competition no longer works.]

    Winner
    – Cohors_Evocata
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    It is time. I can see it in their eyes. Their stomachs filled, their thoughts clouded by wine, the cold expelled by the hearth. They are perfectly content. Now they only wait for me to do what I am here for. To them, I only provide entertainment at their banquet with song and story. They tolerate my presence because of that. They rule, yet they are nothing but a shadow of humanity’s former greatness. And of that greatness they want to hear.

    Too sweet was the nectar of glory in those long-lost days. Proud-minded and joy-filled did mankind walk upon the Earth. The cities rose up from the surface, like mountains reaching for the cloud-filled heavens. Brilliant as radiant daylight were the signs of civilization and peace. Swift-horsed chariots went to the ends of the world and beyond. It was in paradise that the seed of ruinwas sown.

    For no longer did humanity strive for mere perfection. Their desire went beyond that. Having achieved everything a mortal could hope for, they dreamed of breaking the confines of their very nature. Greed and a lust for power marred the nobility of their hearts. Siblings turned against each other. The philosophy of politics degenerated into useless bickering. Riots and factionalism wrought havoc upon everything they had created. Yet they could still have been saved. Until, at last, the final war broke out.

    It was beyond imagination. Cities reduced to a scorched flatland in mere moments. Corpses were incinerated until nothing remained. Whoever survived was forced to roam in a lifeless wasteland, scavenging for whatever food could be found. Eventually, the battered survivors managed to settle again and began to rebuild civilization. We regained hope, but we did not regain what and who we lost.

    They praise me and my tales. But those tales are meaningless to them. They do not recognize them for what they are. They are my most bitter memories. They are the visions of sorrow and pain which haunt me in my sleep. I am one of last of those who remember, who dwelt upon the Earth when it was clouded with darkness and burnt with unseen fires. I am one of the few who tell an increasingly unheard story. I am among the final people who provide a warning.

    For mankind has not learned its lesson. There is no better example than my audience. Noblemen and their retainers are gathered in this hall. They think themselves higher and better than any other. Yet they live of the plunder of their enemies and ignore thescreams of their subjects. They squabble and feud, ignorant of the past and of the world. They are headed for destruction, just as we were.

    Our number is declining. Our message is being lost. And I fear for the future, when we won’t be there to warn. Whatever may happen, it is no concern of mine. For my era has already ended.

    Entrant 2 – Hitai de Bodemloze
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    “Isn’t it a little early to be drinking?” I asked, offhandedly.

    The office was dark and smoky; curtains drawn with a cigar embering in an ashtray on the table. The bookshelves that lined the walls cast imposing shadows across the confines of the room, illuminated only by a small lamp on the desk.

    A bitter laugh. “It’s too late if you ask me Alastair,” came the reply. I shrugged. He was right, in a way.

    We sat in silence for a while longer. My companion drank steadily from his glass of sherry, whilst I nervously checked my watch every other minute. I tried to be discreet with every flick of the wrist, but I saw his eyes narrow every time I stole a glance at my timepiece.

    “Do they not love me anymore?” he spoke again, draining his glass and slumping back in his chair.

    I sighed. “No Tony. They do not.”

    Tony’s eyes grew sad as he turned to stare at the window, where the morning light was beginning to creep around the edges of the frayed curtains. “Did I really bring so much ruin?”

    “You saw them Tony,” I spoke softly. “Do you not remember February 15th? It was havoc.”

    “The screams…” he muttered, a far-away look colouring his countenance. A bad memory. One we all shared.

    I nodded, more to myself than to him, and checked my watch again. It was nearly time. I hated to see my friend in such a state, but when you forge an empire upon the corpses of your enemies, there will only ever be one conclusion.

    There was a sharp knock at the door and a figure snaked into the room; a faceless, nameless civil servant. “Mr Blair, the car is waiting to take you to the palace.”

    Tony nodded and stood up, that far-away look still etched upon his features. I rose with him, letting go of a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding. “Time to go my friend.”

    The Prime Minister shuffled slowly to the door, his body moving as if of its own accord. Then suddenly he wheeled around to face me. “Does it have to be this way? Does it have to be him?”

    I said nothing as Tony was ushered out of his… the office.

    “You just watch him Alastair,” Tony spat, a renewed fire dancing across his deadening eyes. “Just watch him plunder this country. They’ll soon realize their mistake.”

    And with that he was gone. The door creaked to a close and I was left alone in the darkened room. After a brief moment, I walked over to the desk to extinguish the smouldering cigar in the ashtray.

    Entrant 3 – Rex Basiliscus
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Plunder. Screams. Havoc.

    This is what I remember from that day … a day that brought shame and abhorrence upon those who call themselves Christians. We were deceived into believing they could help us; deceived by our own sovereigns, even though the signs were everywhere – showing that our riches, our lands and most of all – our City was what they most desired.

    I am no politician – I am but a humble priest, in service of our Lord, who must have wept at the event that unfolded in his dominion … for God is the true sovereign of this and the next world; but even I knew what would happen after the sack of Iader, which they most ruthlessly conquered at the behest of those people, who now took for themselves the biggest share of our Empire.

    Plunder. Screams. Havoc.

    The first time our City fell to them, they had captured it to put our previous basileus back on the throne along with his son, but failing to give them what he promised, they devised an infamous plan to end God's kingdom on Earth and divide it among themselves as spoil.
    The second time they captured the City, three days and nights of plunder ensued … the Latins didn't hold back – the most sacred places, our most beloved relics – all plundered or destroyed. Even piety – for which they took arms on this sacred campaign – didn't stop their greed and lust for our treasures.
    I've heard (from those that witnessed this sacrilege), that even the golden altar inside the Church of Holy Wisdom had been broken and divided among them. The golden carriage from the Hippodrome was taken to Venice and soon a sale of the city's treasures began, as the Latin rulers pawned them to pay their soldiers.

    Our Empire had been a corpse upon which the envious reached their hands for the last two centuries … oh, where are the glory days of our sacred Emperors Vasileios and Constantinos? I've heard some people have begged them at their graves in the Church of the Sacred Apostols to rise again and save us from this. Oh, would they only have succeeded …

    I have retired shortly after to this monastery on the Holy Mountain to live off my last days in peace and prayer. I have heard rumours of some of our noblemen making a stand against the Latins in Nicaea and Epirus and this makes me feel hope … hope that our state can be salvaged from this ruin we now live in.

    But my days are numbered and I fear I will never again see the City in the hands of Romans … I can only find consolation in history, and I am ever more wanting to continue the work of our ancestors. I will write in hope that what I write isn't an end of an era, but a start of a new one … a better one.

    brother Anastasios

    Last edited by Caillagh de Bodemloze; April 24, 2017 at 06:30 AM.
    Under the patronage of Shankbot de Bodemloze

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    Default Re: TotW Story Index

    TotW 206 – Jesse James
    outlaw, notorious, train, south, rebel
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Winner – Rex Anglorvm
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Jesse James

    What a name his parents had saddled him with; Jesse, he wasn’t even American, but from the South of England, a place called Faversham. His Dad had been an avid fan of all things Western, as a kid Jesse had watched movie after movie with his Dad until he had become sick to death of all things cowboy. It had only been natural that his father would call him after a western anti-hero.

    So Jesse just to get his goat, then chose the most opposite path that he could from his father’s and had become an avid fan of anything eastern; he watched all the martial arts movies he could get his hands on; he had even had a stand up shouting match with his dad over which movie genre was better.

    He was so obsessed with martial arts that soon he enrolled at every academy that he could find; he worked night and day shifts to pay for his classes as he sought out the best in the world to train with, he learned from the notorious and the evil, the brazen and the skilful. Nothing could kill his obsession, not even bruises, cuts, broken bones and a sore head.

    He even joined a triad gang in Hong Kong just to train with one particular outlaw that was famous for being able to decapitate rival gangsters with a chop from his right hand. This more than anything disturbed and upset his law abiding policeman of a father. Jesse had not set out to be a rebel it had just worked out that way. Over time he became well known, he was paid to protect the rich and the famous, the irritating and the foul, and even the odd pop princess. Only one stop remained. Hollywood.

    Guarding movie stars was fun; he even met some of his all time favorites and learned the odd new move to add to his ever growing arsenal of dirty trick